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Bundesliga – Revierderby: Borussia Dortmund vs FC Schalke 04

Bundesliga match acion between Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04. (Photo courtesy: Bundesliga)
Bundesliga match acion between Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04. Photo courtesy: Bundesliga

Strap yourselves in, as we’re in for a rollercoaster ride when the 94th Bundesliga Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04 rolls into town this weekend.

There will be ups and downs, thrills and spills in German football’s highest-octane clash.

Known as “the mother of all derbies”, the Revierderby dates back to 1925 and is not a fixture for the faint hearted.

Steeped in tradition, regional politics and fierce local pride, these neighbours – separated by less than 20 miles – pit coal versus steel, Royal Blue against Black-and-Yellow and turn the country’s industrial heartland, the Ruhr district, into a battleground every time they meet.

It provides one of the greatest atmospheres in European football and, come matchday, the Ruhr will reverberate from the roar of the Revierderby.

This match also guarantees goals, with an average of 2.99 goals per game, while the respective rivals’ records are finely balanced; Dortmund claiming victory on 33 occasions to Schalke’s 31, with 29 matches ending in a draw.

And with the hosts in pursuit of a first league championship since 2012; Schalke seek revenge this year for the Matchday 33 defeat in Dortmund in 2007 that cost them what would have been a maiden Bundesliga crown in front of a feverish 80,708 Ruhrpotts.

It is a memory that still lingers, leaving both sweet and bitter tastes on the palates of those on either side of the feast that day.

One man who knows, more than most, the flavours this unique fixture serves up is Schalke boss Huub Stevens, who has presided over more Revierderby matches than any other coach.

And the 65-year-old Dutchman is keenly aware that his side need to be mentally prepared for this kind of battle, saying: “If it doesn’t sit well between the ears, then it also gets into the legs.”

This will be the 16th time Stevens leads Schalke out against Dortmund, with Jürgen Klopp (14) and Ottmar Hitzfeld (12) the closest to his record.

Stevens has four wins, six draws and five defeats to his name against BVB, while his counterpart on Saturday, Lucien Favre, takes charge of just his second Revierderby.

Favre’s first – this season’s Matchday 14 meeting at the Veltins Arena that he modestly described as “a little bit special” – ended in victory, with Dortmund running out 2-1 winners thanks to goals from Thomas Delaney and Jadon Sancho either side of Daniel Caligiuri’s strike.

To make it two-from-two, Favre will need his title-chasers to be at their very best, with potential match-winning subplots pitting the best of this year’s Revierderby cast against one another.

Sancho – the Bundesliga’s leading assist provider (13) – will once again provide one of Dortmund’s greatest attacking threats and it will be up to Bastian Oczipka to keep the flying English winger quiet this time around.

Meanwhile, the fight for control of the midfield throws up the tantalising prospect of Axel Witsel trying to nullify Weston McKennie at one end and Omar Mascarell attempting to neutralise Marco Reus at the other.

Witsel, so often a launching pad for 16-goal Dortmund captain Reus, will have to combine both his ball-winning (Witsel has won a team-high 274 duels) and pass mastery (he also boasts a league-high 94 per cent pass completion rate among midfielders) if the Belgian is to help inspire his side to victory.

Stevens will be hoping Mascarell can provide similar steel at the base of Schalke’s midfield that both reduces Reus’ immense threat and also allows his American starlet, McKennie, to flourish further forward.

Friendship will also be put to one side as Swiss international teammates Manuel Akanji and Breel Embolo go up against one another for the first time in the Bundesliga.

Other loyalties are put aside all across the region when Dortmund and Schalke meet. Lines are drawn in the sand, divisions created among family, friends and co-workers for 90 minutes of helter-skelter football that will leave scenes of joy and despair in its wake.

It’s intense. It’s always a spectacle to behold. It’s the mother of all derbies. It’s the Revierderby. It’s Football As It’s Meant To Be.

Watch live via one of the Bundesliga’s official broadcasters from 15:30 CEST on Saturday 27 April.