It’s that time in the season. When you can sense the anticipation and nerves in the cities of Gelsenkirchen and Dortmund, as both teams prepare for the Revier derby. It’s the battle for bragging rights in the Ruhr region of the land, and with the top of the league now a mathematical bridge too far, it seems bragging rights is all there is to play for here.
Oh, hang on. Wait a minute! That doesn’t sound all too accurate. Bayern Munich may have once again strolled to the league title, but places immediately below them are up for grabs, not to mention its rewards. Bayern being uncatchable means one out of four Champions League spots have been taken, which means there are three places left, and four teams battling for it; five if you choose to include Leipzig.
Schalke occupy the spot directly behind Bayern, second place, six points ahead of fifth-positioned Frankfurt, while Dortmund are a place lower, and a point less in their lead over Frankfurt. Second place in its own is no feat to be taken for granted, the prospect of being named the clichéd ‘best of the rest’, which is another incentive for these rivals, one has the chance to finish above the other, something Schalke have only done over Dortmund once in the past seven seasons.
The Miners are no longer the ruling force in Ruhr, even though they served up that ludicrous comeback at the Signal Iduna Park earlier this season. Despite being 4-0 down at halftime, Domenico Tedesco’s side rallied to claim a dramatic point. Given that they are a point above Die Schwarzgelben, it’s not hard to recall the importance of that draw. Schalke hope to at least have their advantage intact after this weekend’s clash, and more importantly by the end of the season. Should they augment it with a win, then it would be even better.
In another game with European consequences, perhaps more crucial than the Revier derby (yeah right), is fourth against fifth at the Bay Arena, as Leverkusen host Frankfurt. A win for the hosts, and Heiko Herrlich’s men go five points clear. Frankfurt have slipped in the past couple of weeks, but Niko Kovac and his side will recognise the prospect of a scalp here. A win, and they ‘re back in control of their Champions League destiny.
Elsewhere, with the league having been won, Bayern Munich would probably be glad to face Borussia Monchengladbach, Jupp Heynckes’ former, and yet bogey, team. Gladbach have Europa League aspirations to fulfil, in what has been a rather turbulent season, so a win here would help in more ways than one.
Hertha Berlin host bottom placed Koln, second-from-bottom Hamburg travel to seventh-placed Hoffenheim, while Stuttgart host Hannover, and Werder Bremen hope to continue their steady improvement as they welcome Leipzig, recently eliminated from the Europa League.
Schalke v Dortmund
Hertha BSC v Koln
Stuttgart v Hannover
Bayern Munich v Monchengladbach
Werder Bremen v RB Leipzig
Mainz v Freiburg
Wolfsburg v Augsburg
Hoffenheim v Hamburg
Leverkusen v Frankfurt