Dortmund visits Schalke in big Bundesliga derby

NESHA STARCEVIC AP Sports Writer Published:

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Borussia Dortmund's impressive performances in the Champions League could be quickly forgotten by its fans if the team loses the Ruhr derby Saturday at Schalke.

The showdowns between the two neighboring clubs are some of the most contested clashes in the Bundesliga. For fans of both clubs, these are the highlights of the season.

"We want a derby win," Dortmund fans chanted after Tuesday's 3-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk secured Dortmund's place in the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the first time in 15 years.

"I find it weird, but it shows how important that match in Schalke is. For the fans, it is THE game," defender Neven Subotic said.

Passions were running high long before the match. Police reported that about 120 rival fans clashed Wednesday evening at Duesseldorf airport. No arrests were made but police confiscated baseball bats, knives and other similar weapons.

The clash erupted after a group of Schalke fans joined up with a group of supporters of Vardar Skopje from Macedonia. The two groups have close ties.

Clashes frequently occur around derby matches in Germany.

With Bayern Munich 17 points ahead, Dortmund has proclaimed second place its goal for the season and it is only one point ahead of Bayer Leverkusen.

Schalke held second place early in the season but then went through a slump. The club has won its last two, though, and seems to have stabilized under new coach Jens Keller, who is striving to keep the job into the next season.

Schalke stunned Dortmund 2-1 away from home in the first half of the season and is now beginning again to look at Champions League slots. Schalke is 10 points behind Dortmund.

One of the heroes of Schalke's win in Dortmund, Marco Hoeger, will be back in the spotlight. Hoeger will replace influential midfielder Jermaine Jones, who is suspended.

Schalke is coming off a 4-1 win in Wolfsburg, where Julian Draxler scored twice. Draxler is only 19, but is about to play his 100th Bundesliga match, the youngest Schalke player to reach the milestone in the club's history.

"A win in the derby would be just the right thing," Draxler said.

Dortmund beat Hannover 3-1 in its last Bundesliga match. It could be without midfielders Sven Bender and Sebastian Kehl, who are both nursing injuries.

Dortmund's only realistic chance of earning a title this season is to win the Champions League.

Dortmund won the Bundesliga championship two seasons in a row and also grabbed the German Cup last year. But it lost to Bayern in the quarterfinals this season and has little chance of catching its rival in the league.

Bayern, which has won all seven of its Bundesliga matches since the mid-season break, scoring 20 and conceding one goal, hosts promoted Fortuna Duesseldorf on Saturday and looks likely to extend the streak ahead of its Champions League game against Arsenal.

Third-place Leverkusen travels to Mainz, while fourth-place Eintracht Frankfurt visits Hannover on Sunday hoping to end its four-game scoring slump.

If Eintracht loses and Freiburg beats Wolfsburg on Saturday, Freiburg will move past Frankfurt to claim a Champions League qualifying spot.

Hoffenheim travels to Greuther Fuerth and will drop to last place if it loses. Greuther Fuerth is two points behind in last place and a defeat would likely doom Hoffenheim, which caused a sensation when it was promoted five years ago. But the project has stalled and Hoffenheim is already five points away from the relegation playoff slot.

Augsburg holds that spot and plays Nuremberg on Friday. Stuttgart hosts Hamburger SV on Sunday.