Betfair Ambassador Michael Ballack looks ahead to Saturday's clash between Schalke and an under-performing Dortmund side that are desperate for a win to close the gap on Bayern...
"Dortmund's development on the pitch is regressing though. The team is making too many individual mistakes and uncertainty is cutting through the team, leaving them even more vulnerable."
Regular readers will know that my last column took an extensive look at VAR. Despite the events over the weekend, I don't want to repeat myself too much. However, the scene in the Mainz vs Cologne match leading to the penalty was yet another incredible sight.
A few weeks ago it would have been incredible to think that, ahead of the big derby match, Schalke would be ahead of Dortmund before their first clash of the season on Saturday.
Schalke recovered from a shaky start (two wins from their opening five games) to register five wins and two draws in the next seven. Whereas Dortmund (who won six and drew one of the opening seven games) have not won in the last five (losing four), a truly unforeseen loss of form that has seen them plummet from the top of the table to fifth. BVB can point to a substantial injury list as a cause for their problems. The constant discussions in the stands and media about their style of play and speculation about Peter Bosz can't be helping either.
I do appreciate that BVB are handling this slump in form in a serious manner. After they sacked Thomas Tuchel in the summer, with some incomprehensible reasoning about the 'wellbeing of Borussia Dortmund', they became slightly stigmatised as a rash club after years of considered and astute behaviour. So I think they will revert to that, rather than do anything hasty again. They will be monitoring the situation without getting too nervous for now.
Their development on the pitch is regressing though. The team is making too many individual mistakes and uncertainty is cutting through the team, leaving them even more vulnerable. Their best approach would be to view this big derby as a chance to reset their season. Dortmund are unbeaten in their last five meetings with Schalke. A win here, and an assured performance, would ease a lot of the pressure they are under. That is the power of derbies. That is football.
Schalke, on the other hand, are doing a solid job at the moment. There is nothing revolutionary about their set up but they are steady and consistent, which is half the battle in football. Domenico Tedesco has laid the groundwork for their success with a strong defense that has conceded only 10 goals this season (second only to Bayern).
They have climbed steadily to second place with consistent performances and results. That will give the team a lot of confidence in themselves and their gameplan. The current Schalke team are a model of consistency, building upon each success. They have a long way to go to get established at the top of the league again but their first steps are encouraging.
One note of caution for Schalke, around their latest quotes about staying ahead of Dortmund for the foreseeable future. The club and the whole environment of football are too unpredictable for that. On Saturday, I can see a goal for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on his return to the side from suspension and I am going with honours even, 1-1.
Hannover 96 - VfB Stuttgart 2-1
RB Leipzig - Werder Bremen 3-2
Bor. Dortmund - FC Schalke 04 1-1
HSV - TSG Hoffenheim 2-1
Eintracht Frankfurt - Bayer Leverkusen 1-1
SC Freiburg - FSV Mainz 0-2
Bor. Mönchengladbach - FC Bayern 3-1
FC Augsburg - VfL Wolfsburg 1-2
1.FC Köln - Hertha BSC 3-0