Berlin: The Borussia Dortmund v Schalke Ruhr derby has a rich history with plenty of drama, emotions and extraordinary results but their 156th meeting Saturday as the showcase match of the Bundesliga restart will be a completely new experience.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic no fans are allowed into Dortmund’s vast 80,000-seat arena where passion normally rules like nowhere else in the league – and players must now find a different way into the game than being roared on by the fans, said dpa international.
“It’ll definitely be the most unusual derby in history,” former captain and now club official Sebastian Kehl told Die Welt paper.
“This match is all about the fans, their emotions, the enthusiasm in the stadium. We definitely won’t experience any of that. The players will really miss the additional motivation that comes from the supporters and the atmosphere.
“We are very conscious of the fact that we can achieve something in this derby that would mean a lot to our fans – despite the difficult times everyone is experiencing at present.”
Forward Julian Brandt told Sky TV “it actually feels a little bit like a return to the basics, the way football was when we started out as young children. It’s a little bit like going back to the roots.”
Schalke will also miss the atmosphere, including their small but vocal set of supporters, midfielder Daniel Caligiuri has said.
“It will definitely be a different kind of game – derbies are normally always sold out with fantastic atmospheres. It’s obviously a shame, but there is no other alternative. We need to push ourselves even more without our fans there,” Caligiuri said.
“We’ve seen a few messages from the fans on Instagram, who are excited for the derby, even if they can’t be there in person.”
Naming the derby “the biggest game of the season,” Schalke coach David Wagner said: “It is a derby, ghost game or not. You badly want to win this game.”
Schalke won the last game in Dortmund 4-2 and a season earlier famously fought from 4-0 down to a 4-4 draw. Dortmund’s last home win dates back to a 3-2 in 2015.
Much is at stake in the start where Dortmund are second, four behind Bayern Munich who they host in the next “home” game on May 26 or 27. Schalke are sixth and fighting for a European berth.
Schalke made a promising start into the season with new coach David Wagner but have won only once in their eight games after the winter break before play was suspended because of the pandemic in mid-March.
Lucien Favre’s Dortmund, by, contrast, have just one defeat and won the other seven, partly because of the remarkable debut of young striker Erling Haaland who has netted nine times since a January move from Salzburg.
Dortmund will be without captain Marco Reus who is however close to a comeback from muscle problems that have sidelined him since Fabruary. Midfielders Axel Witsel and Emre Can are also not expected to play,
Brandt meanwhile warned that past form will mean nothing in the restart for the final nine rounds until June 27 – with the derby the standout match of the weekend and likely to be watched by a huge audience around the world because football remains suspended in most countries.
“Lots of things will be back to square one on Saturday,” he said.
“There’ll be no home or away games like they were before, no advantage or disadvantage. In the end, it’ll come down to who is able to deal with the situation in the best way.”
Sports director Michael Zorc said: “This is not the moment to talk about the championship, the conditions are new and extreme for everyone. First of all we want to win the game on Saturday.”
Caligiuri, who has scored four goals in derbies against Dortmund, is along with other key players such as Suat Serdar, Omar Mascerell and Salif Sane fit again from injuriy and ready to play.
While denting Dortmund’s title ambitions would definitely please their fans, Caligiuri said the team is not thinking in this direction.
“We’re out to be successful ourselves, not to ruin anything for them. We want to defend our place in the table,” he said.
Source: Bahrain News Agency