Schalke looks for first league points in derby
Struggling Schalke looks for its first points of the season against archrival Borussia Dortmund on a Bundesliga weekend that features four local showdowns, including the Hamburg city derby.
After three losses to start the Bundesliga, Schalke didn't gain any confidence midweek by losing 1-0 to Lyon in the Champions League. Still, coach Felix Magath is looking forward to Dortmund on Sunday instead of back on Lyon.
"Following three losses starting the season you have to win anyhow, also in the derby against Dortmund regardless if you are at the top or not," Magath said. "So this game comes at exactly the right time."
Dortmund has only won two of the last 23 league games against Schalke, with 11 draws and 10 losses.
"We don't even want to think about (a loss)," Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said. "Now we need to call up some team spirit."
Dortmund, meanwhile, is enjoying a much better start to the season after beating Stuttgart and Wolfsburg in its last two games.
"Schalke is taking a completely different course, so it's two different worlds colliding on Sunday. But I don't want overvalue that, especially before a game with so much meaning," Dortmund captain Sebastian Kehl said. "I wouldn't overestimate their start. The table means nothing in the first couple of game days. But it's clear that we are heading there to win."
The local matchup with the biggest impact on the Bundesliga table is Hoffenheim at promoted Kaiserslautern on Saturday. Hoffenheim leads the league with three victories in three matches for nine points, having only allowed one goal.
"We still have to improve," Hoffenheim midfielder Isaac Vorsah said. "Three victories are not enough for me. know that the atmosphere in Kaiserslautern will be heated. But we are in first place and still want to be on top after the game."
Kaiserslautern has had mixed results, beating Bayern Munich at home before losing at second-place Mainz.
Wolfsburg, meanwhile, is also without a point through three matches ahead of its derby at home on Saturday against Hannover, which has seven points for fourth place. Wolfsburg has five wins and two draws in its last seven Bundesliga games against Hannover, but Steve McLaren's team is struggling to find its form.
"The communication within the team is a problem," McLaren said.
To help the situation, the team held a players-only meeting Tuesday to watch the Champions League without the coaching staff.
Things are going much better for Hamburg, which is third in the league with seven points heading into the city showdown against promoted side St. Pauli.
The match is highly anticipated in the city, with St. Pauli's Millerntor Stadium long sold out, and 25,000 more fans expected at a public viewing at Hamburg's arena.
"St. Pauli and Hamburg are from the same city which makes things a bit bigger than Schalke against Dortmund," Hamburg keeper Frank Rost said. "We have to be prepared that everything surrounding the game will not be comforting. If we don't keep our cool, we could be surprised very quickly. It will not be a normal game."
Hamburg defender Heiko Westermann, who like Rost had experience in the Dortmund-Schalke derby, said his team has a lot more to lose than their opponent.
"St. Pauli has less pressure but we have the better team," Westermann said. "Football-wise St. Pauli is not close to us."
In other games, reigning champion Bayern Munich travels to Cologne on Saturday while Werder Bremen hosts Mainz; and Stuttgart welcomes Borussia Moenchengladbach.
On Sunday, Bayer Leverkusen hosts Nuremberg and Freiburg heads to Eintracht Frankfurt on Friday.