Bundesliga resumes in the best way possible as Borussia Dortmund host FC Schalke in the fierce Revierderby on Saturday.
Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke will play out the 180th Revierderby when both the sides meet at Signal Iduna Park on Saturday. The derby, pitting two traditional clubs against each other, with both boasting a passionate fan base will take place in a stadium that would usually hold over 80,000 people, but will be empty on the weekend.
There will also be no handshakes prior to the kickoff and the players will sit at least a metre apart from each other on the bench. A Topspiel will turn into a Geisterspiel and the Revierderby will be strictly adhering to the social distancing measures.
Amid all these restrictions, however, the game between Dortmund and Schalke is set to signal the first step towards a potential return to normalcy. And despite the absence of 80,000 passionate fans inside the stadium, the proceeding will be followed by millions of football fans across the world.
From a sporting perspective, there is also a lot at stake. While the hosts are looking to keep up with league leaders Bayern Munich, their arch-rivals will be keen on securing their first Bundesliga win since January.
And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides, prior to their flagship encounter in the Bundesliga this weekend.
Tactics & Team News
Lucien Favre has been dealt with major blows heading into this fixture as both the central midfielders in Axel Witsel and Emre Can have been ruled out. Fortunately for the Swiss mastermind, he is expected to have Thomas Delaney available, after having been without the midfielder for the majority of the campaign.
The Dane is likely to form the double-pivot alongside Julian Brandt. It will be refreshing to see the latter returning to his central midfield duties. His work-rate and creativity could dictate Dortmund’s chances of breaching the Schalke backline this weekend.
Another key absentee for the home side is Dan-Axel Zagadou. The Frenchman’s absence should pave the way for Manuel Akanji to return to the backline, which should be an alarming sign for Favre, even though the ex-Basel defender will be accompanied by experienced defensive figureheads like Mats Hummels and Lukasz Piszczek.
Moving forward, we have Erling Haaland, who is tipped to lead the Dortmund attack alongside Thorgan Hazard and Jadon Sancho. They will be provided additional creative support by the two wing-backs in Achraf Hakimi and Raphael Guerreiro.
The telepathic combination between these five individuals will be key in overwhelming the Schalke defence, thus forming the Royal Blues to operate in a more rigid fashion.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Burki; Piszczek, Hummels, Akanji; Hakimi, Delaney, Brandt, Guerreiro; Sancho, Haaland, Hazard
FC Schalke 04
Schalke have historically thrived as underdogs in the Revierderby. And on Saturday, they will likely employ the same mindset, with the club mostly looking to contain Dortmund’s early pressure before pushing forward in the second half.
The offensive combination between Guido Burgstaller and Benito Raman is set to play a central role in Schalke’s counter-attacking system. Coach David Wagner also has Michael Gregoritsch at his disposal, though the ex-HSV star will most likely be utilised as a second-half substitute.
The absence of Omar Mascarell, however, could serve as a major blow for the visitors. The Spaniard’s ability to read the game and provide the security for the backline will be missed, even though Schalke do still have Weston McKennie.
Meanwhile, in defence, Benjamin Stambouli is a doubt while Ozan Kabak is out injured. That means Matija Nastastic is likely to form the central defensive partnership alongside Jean-Clair Todibo with Jonjoe Kenny and Bastian Oczipka operating as full-backs.
Markus Schubert has established himself as the first-choice goalie for Schalke after the club’s fallout with Alexander Nubel. That isn’t expected to change anytime soon, just like Schalke potentially appearing overdependent on the services of Daniel Caligiuri and Amine Harit in the wider attacking slots.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Schubert; Kenny, Todibo, Nastastic, Oczipka; Caligiuri, McKennie, Serdar, Harit; Burgstaller, Raman
- Dortmund won seven of their first eight Rückrunde matches. The last time they did that, they won the title (2011/12).
- Before the break, BVB had won four Bundesliga games in a row for the first time this season. A fifth would represent their 800th three-point haul of the Bundesliga era.
- Haaland and Sancho have scored more Bundesliga goals in 2020 (nine and five respectively) than the entire Schalke team (four).
- Seven Bundesliga matches is Schalke’s longest winless run under Wagner (D4, L3). It’s also the longest current run of any Bundesliga club.
- Amine Harit has had a hand in more Bundesliga goals than any other Schalke player this season (six goals, four assists), but hasn’t scored in 13 or assisted in 10.
Player to Watch
Jonjoe Kenny expresses his gratitude to everyone at Schalke 🙏🎙️ pic.twitter.com/KrTw0nfYcO
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) September 15, 2019
Aside from Sancho, Kenny is the only other British player to extensively succeed in the Bundesliga this season, having initially joined Schalke last summer, on a season-long loan from Everton. And with loads of fans across the world tuning in, it could be an excellent opportunity for the young right-back to showcase his qualities.
Kenny’s hard-working nature, combined with his excellent crossing and offensive exploits have already made him a key component in Wagner’s setup. But on Saturday, he will face the daunting task of confronting Hazard and even Sancho, as the two Dortmund attackers often switch flanks.
Therefore, it will be interesting to see how the youngster performs, especially against a rejuvenated Dortmund attack that has been scoring goals for fun this season.
Borussia Dortmund 1-1 FC Schalke 04
Despite all the excitement heading into the clash, we could very well witness a dull game, with both sides looking to avoid any early setbacks. The absence of key players may play a huge role in reducing their effectiveness, from a tactical perspective. Therefore, we expect these two teams to share the spoils with a 1-1 draw.