Dortmund, Germany – Defending Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund made its claim as Germany's best again last week with a win at Bayern Munich, and another test awaits Saturday in the Revierderby against Schalke.
The "mother of all derbies," as the match is labeled in Germany, pits the area rivals in a series dating back to 1925. Dortmund hosts this weekend's version, but the club has just two wins in the last 12 home matches against Schalke.
"We can't have that," said Dortmund's Kevin Grosskreutz. "Our fans are dying to see us win the derby in our own stadium."
Although Dortmund has solved Bayern recently, Schalke provides a different job as it tries to chase down leader Bayern Munich. Bayern starts the weekend with a two-point cushion over Dortmund and Monchengladbach.
Jurgen Klopp's Dortmund side suffered another blow in the Champions League, as it lost 2-1 to Arsenal and needs to defeat Marseille in their last group game, overturn a large goal differential, and get help from Arsenal.
But even if the Champions League ends in early December for Dortmund, it would be able to focus on the league and defending its title. But this week, Klopp's side will be without Sven Bender, who suffered a double jaw fracture earlier this week.
Mario Gotze, who scored the lone goal against Bayern, was also injured in the match, and Klopp acknowledged his team suffered without two of its top men.
"After the two injury-induced substitutions the mechanics of our game were no longer effective. We'd lost our flow. From then on our football was incredibly erratic," said Klopp.
"It's a learning process that we're going through right now. You can genuinely learn a lot more from games that you lose," said Dortmund's Mats Hummels.
But even with injury problems, Klopp thought it was not hard to get up for the big match this week.
"Ahead of a game like this, the adrenaline is literally flowing through your veins," he said. "It's easy to regain your focus for a game against Schalke.
"It's the game of the season. Anyone who hasn't been involved before can be thankful they're going to experience it for the first time."
Schalke is three points off the top, one point behind Dortmund and Gladbach as it also looks to move level at the top of the league with Bayern. Royal Blues coach Huub Stevens knows a tough match awaits.
Like Dortmund, Schalke has injury concerns with winger Jefferson Farfan and captain Benedikt Howedes out, but Stevens hopes the fact Dortmund played this week helps his club.
"Whether it's a good or a bad thing that BVB played in the Champions League during the week will only become clear after the match," Stevens said. "It's not a bad thing to build up some rhythm and Dortmund are such a fit bunch that they can cope with competing on two fronts."
Bayer Leverkusen had more success in the Champions League earlier this week as it defeated Chelsea to secure progression, and it will try to improve its spot in the table at Hertha Berlin on Saturday.
Also Saturday, Augsburg hosts Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim hosts Freiburg, Nurnberg hosts Kaiserslautern, and Hannover hosts Hamburg.
On Sunday, Bayern Munich turns its attention from the Champions League, where it clinched Group A this week, to defending its lead in the Bundesliga against Mainz. Stuttgart visits Werder Bremen in the day's other match.
On Friday, Cologne hosts Monchengladbach to kick off the weekend's action.