Fear of Coronavirus looms large as Borussia Dortmund play hosts to FC Schalke 04 on Saturday behind closed doors at the Signal Iduna Park.
It has been a turbulent week for the world of football as the Coronavirus, now declared a pandemic, begins to strengthen its grip across European football. It has already taken a serious toll on Serie A and fans have criticised the DFL’s treatment of the disease as they are yet to postpone a single Bundesliga game thus far.
That means teams will continue to face each other, including Borussia Dortmund welcoming arch-rivals FC Schalke in the famed Revierderby. Unfortunately, the game is going to be played behind closed doors, meaning it could be one of the dullest derbies in the history of the Bundesliga.
It could also serve as a huge blow for Dortmund as the home team has historically performed well, due to their local support. But, with no fan presence whatsoever, things could even out as the Black and Yellow lock horns with Schalke on Saturday.
Moreover, it will be a must-win game for a Dortmund side who are trailing league leaders Bayern Munich by just four points at the moment. Schalke, in contrast, are sixth and are running the risk of plummeting to ninth, depending on results from other fixtures.
And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look at both these teams ahead of the highly-anticipated Revierderby this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Borussia Dortmund are coming off the back of a dreadful exit from the UEFA Champions League at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain. Emre Can received a red card in that game, but is available against Schalke. He should retain his place in the double pivot, starting alongside Axel Witsel.
The hosts will continue to miss out on the services of captain Marco Reus while Thomas Delaney is also unlikely to feature. Reus’s absence means Jadon Sancho remains a key man upfront, alongside number nine Erling Haaland. But, there might be one change in attack, with Julian Brandt replacing Thorgan Hazard.
Elsewhere, Achraf Hakimi and Raphael Guerreiro are guaranteed starters in the wing-back slots. The duo have become an integral part of the Dortmund side ever since Lucien Favre decided to switch to a three-man backline. And their work-rate could once again be crucial in this Revierderby.
Speaking of the backline, Dortmund are likely to persist with the defensive trifecta of Mats Hummels, Lukasz Piszczek and Dan-Axel Zagadou, who certainly needs to improve his performances, especially with Manuel Akanji waiting in the wings.
And finally, there is no one replacing Roman Burki in goal. The Swiss goalkeeper made some excellent saves against PSG in midweek and will be hoping to replicate that performance this time around.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Burki; Piszczek, Hummels, Zagadou; Hakimi, Witsel, Can, Guerreiro; Sancho, Brandt; Haaland
FC Schalke 04
Schalke head coach David Wagner will have to deal with a host of injury problems ahead of this fixture. Omar Mascarell, Daniel Caligiuri, Benjamin Stambouli, Ozan Kabak and Salif Sane have all been ruled out while Suat Serdar and Juan Miranda are doubtful.
The absence of three premier central defenders could force Wagner to persist with the inexperienced Timo Becker forging the three-man backline alongside Matija Nastastic and loan signing Jean-Clair Todibo. Jonjoe Kenny and Bastian Oczipka are likely to occupy the wing-back slots, although the latter is an option at centre-back.
In central midfield, Alessandro Schopf will likely deputise for the injured midfield duo of Serdar and Mascarell. The Austrian international could be partnered by Weston McKennie, who is one of the most important players for Schalke heading into this game.
In the wider areas of the pitch, Benito Raman could feature at right wing, with Rabbi Matondo playing on the opposite flank. Amine Harit is likely to start on the bench, but could be introduced later on in the game.
And finally, the Schalke attack will be spearheaded by Guido Burgstaller, although Michael Gregoritsch is also an option.
Probable Lineup (5-4-1): Nubel; Kenny, Todibo, Becker, Nastastic, Oczipka; Raman, Schopf, McKennie, Matondo; Burgstaller
- This will be the 180th Revierderby. Borussia Dortmund have only won one of the last eight meetings. The last derby in Dortmund saw Schalke win 4-2 – BVB’s only Bundesliga home loss under Favre.
- Dortmund were only one point ahead of Schalke before their first meeting this season, whereas 14 points now separate the two sides.
- Erling Braut Haaland has scored more than double the amount of goals Schalke managed since the winter break so far.
- FC Schalke 04 have only scored once in their last 387 minutes of Bundesliga football. Dortmund have netted ten times in this timeframe.
- Dortmund could pick up their 800th Bundesliga win in the upcoming Revierderby, while Schalke could let in their 2,500th Bundesliga goal.
Player to Watch
Erling Haaland is certain to garner attention, having failed to score in any of Dortmund’s last three competitive matches. But, Sancho will provide the real threat for the Schalke defence, having been one of the most productive players in Europe’s top five leagues this season.
Indeed, the English international has scored 14 goals while mustering 16 assists. That means he has been involved in 30 Bundesliga goals – only three less than what Schalke have managed as a whole this season. Hence, Sancho will certainly be a worry for the Schalke backline.
His pace, combined with his telepathic understanding with Haaland and Julian Brandt, could make things much more difficult for a Schalke defence decimated by the injury of Ozan Kabak, Salif Sane and Benjamin Stambouli.
Borussia Dortmund 2-0 FC Schalke 04
Borussia Dortmund are widely expected to return to winning ways after a disappointing performance in midweek. In fact, Schalke are an ideal opponent at the moment, given their injury crisis in defence, combined with their lack of productivity going forward. Therefore, we expect the hosts to seal a comfortable 2-0 win in this one.