The 152nd Ruhr derby might not kick off until 15:30 CET on Sunday, but for Peter Stöger it has already begun. "I'm already receiving lots of good advice as to how it could be," he said, smiling. From observing his players, the Vienna native has noticed that "although no games are unimportant, there are matches that are emotional and carry great significance".
It might be Stöger's first taste of Ruhr derby action, but it is not the first time he has faced Schalke 04. The 52-year-old boasts a remarkable record against the Royal Blues, having won four and lost only one of seven previous meetings. "I like going to this stadium, I have good memories there," said Stöger, who has before never left Gelsenkirchen on the losing side. "I'm looking forward to this top match and I'm happy that I'll be the BVB coach for it. The explosiveness is always there, the scenario going into the game makes it even more exciting." A victory would see the third-placed Black & Yellows leapfrog the Royal Blues into second.
But in addition to bragging rights in the Ruhr, the derby on Sunday is also about securing a place in the UEFA Champions League for next season. "We're in a good position and each week we get the chance to take a large step towards this objective by winning," explained Stöger ahead of the first of this season's five remaining games. "I assume we'll see a different Schalke to the one in Hamburg. And we showed a different side after the Bayern drubbing."
His charges, who have otherwise looked very solid on the road this season, cannot afford to sit back. "We need to hold firm, cover a lot of ground, pass the ball well and find solutions on the pitch. Otherwise it'll be really difficult," warned Stöger. (br)