There is a sense of calm in the Borussia Dortmund camp ahead of the Ruhr derby. The management appeared cool and composed at the pre-match press conference, while coach Lucien Favre underscored the importance of "thinking one game at a time" and emphasised that the 153rd edition of probably the most explosive regional rivalry in German football is but one of 25 fixtures in a jam-packed pre-Christmas calendar.
"We're obviously rivals," said Hans-Joachim Watzke, who nonetheless expressed great respect for the Royal Blues and labelled relations between the neighbouring clubs "as good as they've been in ages". Meanwhile, Schalke's Christian Heidel told football magazine kicker: "There's nothing to be gained from stirring up the atmosphere ourselves. We want an intense derby atmosphere, but there's no need for hostilities between club officials to achieve that."
That coolness and composure in Gelsenkirchen was replicated at the Borussia Dortmund press conference today. Lucien Favre, who is set to make his derby debut, obviously has no memories of the fixture to draw on. "Everyone tells me it's an important game," said the coach. "It all started after the match against Freiburg. A derby is always a special occasion." Michael Zorc, who has been experiencing the derby in some form or another for 50 years, declared: "Nobody can deny this is a special game. It means a lot for the fans and the surrounding area, both at Dortmund and Schalke." But he was quick to turn his attention to sporting matters. "We, especially the coach and the team, need to concentrate on what happens starting at half three on Saturday. We need to play good football, and only then can things turn out well."
Both the head coach and sporting director are expecting a physically demanding encounter. "We need to be well-prepared and deliver a very good performance," said Favre, while Zorc called for the team to "rise to the special task. We want to extend our unbeaten run."
The involvement of Dan-Axel Zagadou, who has a foot problem, is doubtful. But it looks as if Manuel Akanji will win his fitness battle. "I feel good, I don't have pain any more," said the Swiss centre-back after Thursday morning's training session. Another absentee on the verge of a return is Marcel Schmelzer. The veteran has finally recovered from injury and has been back in full team training for a week.