BERLIN: When Schalke 04 host Borussia Dortmund in the Ruhr valley derby on Saturday, a lot more is at stake than merely the prestige of winning the most fiercely contested fixture in German football.
Schalke are in last place in the Bundesliga, struggling to avoid relegation after winning just one game in what has been a disastrous season for them so far.
Constant changes in coaches, club executives and players have delivered very few tangible results and the Royal Blues are on nine points from 21 games, nine behind Arminia Bielefeld who are on the relegation playoff spot in 16th.
“We all know how important this game is,” said Schalke keeper Ralf Faehrmann. “The derby is always a very special game where everything can happen. These games have their own laws.”
Schalke have conceded 52 goals and scored just 15 times this season, the same number Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland has scored himself.
Hence Schalke will be hoping for a good result as they continue their fight to stay up.
They have shown some signs of improvement recently, snatching two draws in their last three matches, but they still have a long way to go to get out of trouble.
While sixth-placed Dortmund’s Bundesliga survival is not on the line, they are now running the real risk of missing out on Champions League football next season.
Dortmund, who were considered title contenders at the start of the season, have recorded only one win in their last six league matches and had to rescue a 2-2 draw last week at Hoffenheim with a late equaliser.
Pressure on coach Edin Terzic, who replaced Lucien Favre midway through the campaign, had been mounting with his team the textbook definition of inconsistency this season.
Earlier this week it was confirmed he will be replaced at the end of the season by Marco Rose, who will join from Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Dortmund did earn a confidence boost on Wednesday, beating Sevilla in Spain 3-2 in their Champions League Round of 16 first leg.
“This game was a very good step forward,” said Dortmund captain Marco Reus, who has also been criticised for a string of lacklustre performances.
“Now we have two days and then it’s the derby. We have to bring the same things to the pitch in the game against Schalke as we did against Sevilla.” – Reuters