In separate articles published on the Magazine's website, veteran German footballing journalists Matthias Dersch and Toni Lieto took the chance to reminisce about their favorite version of Germany's famed "Revierdery".
Both reporters went for high-scoring draws. The derby itself - with Schalke being in the state that they're in - has suffered from a lack of competitiveness in recent years. Dortmund have won the last four league meetings easily. The last time Schalke took points came in a 0-0 draw in 2019. The Königsblauen last took all three points in 4-2 victory in April of the same year.
Schalke's 2020/21 relegation left German top-flight football without its fiercest league rivalry last year for the first time in over three decades. Hopes are naturally high that, after some disappointing and dark years, the two sides will once again be able to deliver an instant classic in Saturday evening's late kickoff.
Dersch reached back to the meeting between the two sides in the 2008/09 "Hin-Runde". At that time, newly appointed BVB trainer Jürgen Klopp got his first taste of how crazy the rivalry could be. Schalke took a 3-0 lead into the 67th minute behind goals from Jefferson Farfan, Rafinha, and Heiko Westermann.
Klopp's troops were nevertheless able to pull back two goals in quick succession. Die Schwarzgelben had been fighting valiantly to remain in he game up until that point. Some four minutes after Kevin Kuranyi nearly put the game to bed with the 4-0, Neven Subotic headed in Alexander Frei corner to pull a goal back in the 67th.
Three minutes after that, Frei himself scored from distance to bring the hosts within one tally of an equalizer. Pandemonium ensued as two Schalke players (Christian Pander and Florian Ernst) were thrown out of the match on red cards over the next six minutes. Mats Hummels and Mateo Klimowicz narrowly missed the equalizer until Jakub Blaszczykowski earned an 89th minute penalty and Frei equalized from the spot.
Dersch reminds the reader that the first days of the Klopp Era in Dortmund were accompanied with expectations of a mid-table finish. Schalke were the much more successful club at that point. The BVB had not yet evolved into the powerhouse that is routinely expected to contend for the Bundesliga title. Klopp himself still sported ripped jeans on the sidelines.
Dersch's recollection of reporting inside the stadium during the "biggest game in German football" also takes care to remind readers that the artificial construct of "Der Klassiker" had not been invented yet. Dortmund-Bayern was, as a result of the situational context, not even considered all that big of a fixture.
This would not come until Klopp led Dortmund to two league titles, a DFB Pokal capture, and a Champions' League final. Klopp had already led Dortmund to a surprise win over Bayern in the 2008 "T-Home Supercup" (at that time a rematch between the previous year's DFB-Pokal Finalists). The draw against Schalke heralded a new era, albeit one that still took a couple of years as Klopp slowly led a younger side up.
Dersch remarks ironically that, as great a match as the 3-3 draw was, most of the penalties awarded wouldn't have been allowed to stand in the VAR age. Match official Lutz Wagner and his team actually made several several glaring errors on the day. Without prolonged stoppages, the rabid fans from both sides in the stands were treated to an uninterrupted rollercoaster.
Such was also the case during the 4-4 draw during the now legends 4-4 draw on November 25th, 2017 at Signal-Iduna Park. On that day, Schalke completed an even more ridiculous comeback. Domenico Tedesco's Königslauen erased a 0-4 half-time deficit en route to taking a point off of Peter Bosz' Schwarzgelben.
Lieto - sitting in the press box that afternoon - writes that he experienced a "once in a lifetime event" in an article published on Kicker's website today. As much as he admits that he would love to witness another such match, Lieto concedes that occurrences such as this are more likely to transpire once every century.
Pierre Emetic Aubameyang's opening goal in the 12th minute definitely wouldn't have counted these days as it did bounce in off the Gabonese international's hand. Schalke fell apart after this early controversial tally, conceding three more goals before the 25th minute was out. Aubameyang missed three clear chances to possibly make it 7-0 before the break.
Schalke nevertheless fought back after Tedesco used up all three of his substitutions before the second half kicked off. It really didn't appear to be Schalke's day at all when Naldo saw a pull-back goal disallowed in the 53rd. Aubameyang then missed another chance at the 5-0 shortly thereafter. Just after the hour mark, however, Guido Burgstaller was able to dig out the 1-4.
Amine Harit - who had been fantastic along with fellow sub Leon Goretzka after being introduced in the 34th - scored the 2-4 just four minutes later. Schalke's belief in a miracle grew. When Aubameyang was sent off on double yellows in the 72nd, Tedesco's men even had the chance with a man-advantage.
The "miracle" would take some time materializing. The guests hit the posts a pair of times and even saw their numerical disadvantage nullified when Harit had to hobble off with an injury. Daniel Calgiuri hammered home the 3-4 just as the match entered injury time. Naldo scored a goal that would count on the 4-4 at 90+4.
Both games were accorded the Kicker grade of "1,0"; the German-scale version of "perfect marks". No derby or indeed any game has received that honor in the Kicker grades since then. The doling out of such a prestigious honor on Saturday may not be likely at all from an odds making perspective.
German football diehards still afford themselves some space to dream.