BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s biggest derby will be a big day for Borussia Dortmund coach Peter Bosz.
Hanging onto his position tenuously with his team in crisis, Bosz will lead his players against Schalke on Saturday knowing that a loss in the Ruhr derby could spell the end of his stay.
Dortmund hasn’t won in the league since September, and Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to Tottenham in the Champions League extended a spiraling feeling of helplessness under the former Ajax coach.
The match against Tottenham was symbolic of Dortmund’s season: A good start full of promise followed by a rude awakening and then collapse. After Harry Kane equalized, Son Heung-min took advantage of lackluster defending to earn the win.
Despite the home loss, Dortmund’s players lined up together in front of their fans, who already had their minds on Saturday’s showdown. They displayed a large banner stressing the importance of the game.
“On Saturday it counts: Everything for the derby win!” it said.
Schalke arrives at the Westfalenstadion full of confidence after five wins in seven unbeaten games, including the German Cup. In its last five league games, Schalke has collected 12 points more than Dortmund and is now second behind Bayern Munich.
“The table isn’t that important after 12 match days. We’re not concerned with it,” said Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco, who has formed a solid if unspectacular side based on a strong defense.
Schalke’s 10 goals conceded in 12 league games is bettered only by Bayern’s eight.
Bayern, which visits Borussia Moenchengladbach for the late game on Saturday, was five points behind Dortmund last month but is now nine points clear. Dortmund hasn’t won since losing its 41-game unbeaten run at home against Leipzig.
“We need to step it up, and we have a big chance to do that this weekend,” said Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic, who will face his friend, Winston McKennie.
The 19-year-old McKennie has been playing an important role under Tedesco, making nine Bundesliga appearances already and playing the full games in his last two.
“It’s a good feeling being in front of them,” the midfielder said of Schalke’s three-point lead over Dortmund.
Leon Goretzka, Schalke’s creative force in midfield, could return after recovering from a lower-leg injury that kept him out since the win over Mainz on Oct. 20, while Argentina forward Franco di Santo looks to have recovered from the right-thigh problem he picked up in last weekend’s win over Hamburger SV.
Bosz knows his team desperately needs a win to pull out of its slump – and probably to save his job. Dortmund has won only one of its last nine games across all competitions, a rout of third-division club Magdeburg in the German Cup.
“We have to win the derby,” Bosz said. “Win. I know that it’s important we win the game against Schalke – also for my position, of course.”