Schalke out to salvage season at Borussia Dortmund
Schalke coach Felix Magath has more than most at stake in the 137th Ruhr Derby on Friday when his side visits Borussia Dortmund to get a weekend of derbies under way in the Bundesliga.
Trust in the 57-year-old coach's ability to save Schalke's disappointing season is fast eroding following last week's loss to Hoffenheim and a number of questionable transfer deals in the winter period, and it appears patience has run out with his side languishing in 11th place.
Fans have issued an open letter accusing Magath of creating "a climate of fear" at the club and calling for an "end to the madness."
"We share these concerns and fears," the board said of the Schalke Fan Club Association.
Schalke has 25 points and Dortmund leads the table with twice as many, but Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp is still wary.
"You can be successful from a desire for victory or from fear of defeat. Schalke has a lot of advantages," Klopp said. "It's easier to surprise when expectations are low than vice versa."
Shinji Kagawa scored twice when Dortmund won 3-1 in Schalke earlier this season, but the Japan midfielder is injured for the rest of the season.
"We'll miss Shinji, no question," Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller told Kicker. "But we cannot change the situation. We have to take it as it is."
Dortmund will look to rising star Mario Goetze to provide the midfield inspiration in his place. Despite limited playing time so far, the 18-year-old German has scored four goals and provided seven assists.
"I feel good in this position," Goetze said. "I know it from my youth. I like playing here as much as I do on the wings."
In Saturday's derby, fifth-place Hannover hosts a Wolfsburg side bolstered by the acquisition of six new players in the winter break, including exciting 19-year-old Yohandry Orozco from Venezuela.
Wolfsburg coach Steve McClaren can also count on Turkey international Tuncay Sanli in midfield, and former Bayer Leverkusen striker Patrick Helmes has arrived to replace the departed Edin Dzeko.
"Edin was without doubt a good player," the 26-year-old Helmes said. "But every player has qualities. Wolfsburg has always had good strikers and that will stay the same."
Wolfsburg is 12th, four points from safety.
In Saturday's late game, 2007 Bundesliga champion Stuttgart travels to Borussia Moenchengladbach for a relegation battle between the two bottom sides.
Stuttgart coach Bruno Labbadia is hopeful that Germany striker Cacau will make a return from injury.
He has also bolstered his attack with the acquisition of Japan striker Shinji Okazaki from J-League club Shimizu S-Pulse, expected to make his debut against Nuremberg on Feb. 12.
Also on Saturday, relegation struggler Cologne hosts a third-place Bayern Munich side missing Franck Ribery, Nuremberg hosts second-place Bayer Leverkusen, fourth-place Mainz hosts Werder Bremen, and Hoffenheim hosts Kaiserslautern.
There's another local derby on Sunday, when Hamburger SV hosts St. Pauli, with public viewing set up around the city so fans without a ticket can see the sold-out game.
"It is one of the most beautiful games of all," Hamburg coach Armin Veh said. "A derby at home in front of your own fans. If that does not stir your heart, then you have none."
Also Sunday, it's Freiburg vs. Eintracht Frankfurt.