The 3rd of May 1925 saw the first meeting between two of the most esteemed clubs to grace the German game. FC Schalke 04, founded 21 years earlier in the city of Gelsenkirchen and nicknamed at the time as Die Königsblauen (or the ‘Royal Blues’), ran out 4-2 winners over Borussia Dortmund in a game played in Herne. This was to be the first of many high-scoring encounters between the two sides as the Revierderby was born. The German press lauded Schalke’s victory. In particular they praised Schalke’s neat and mesmeric passing, which we now recognise as tiki-taka. Back then, however, it had been given a different name — Schalker Kreisel; quite literally the ‘Schalke Gyroscope’.
The Gelsenkirchen outfit went on to win 16 of the next 18 games between the two sides as Schalke dominated German football in the 1930s and 1940s. Given the respective contemporary fortunes of the clubs, it seems ludicrous that the rivalry was once this one-sided. Schalke consigned Dortmund to two 6-1 defeats (both in the same season), three 7-0 defeats in the space of five years, a 9-0 hammering in December 1939 followed by a 10-0 demolition just ten months later. Indeed, it took almost 20 years since their first meeting for Dortmund to register their first win over their rivals as they scraped a 1-0 victory in November 1943. Until then, the heartache had only been punctuated by a 3-3 draw in January 1938.
That Dortmund victory, however, signalled a change in fortunes for Die Schwarzgelben. After one final thrashing at the hands of Schalke, another Dortmund victory soon followed as post-war German football began to take shape. Given their fortunes in the decades previous, the turnaround was quite stunning. Dortmund lost just seven times in 16 seasons between 1947 and 1963, winning 15 games and drawing ten.
Since the Oberliga became what we now know as the Bundesliga in 1963, the Revierderby has more or less levelled out. After more derby dominance home and away for Dortmund in the 60s, later decades often saw the home team run out as winners. That was until the year 2000, which marked the start of the Schalke renaissance as Dortmund managed just two wins in ten years in the Bundesliga. So far this decade, Dortmund have had the best of the derby — six wins, three losses and three draws since 2010 going into this weekend’s game at the Veltins-Arena.
While the Revierderby represents one of the most intriguing and unpredictable rivalries in the world of football, one thing is for sure: goals are a guarantee. Indeed, from their first game it took until 1951, 26 years and 28 meetings later, for the sides to play out a 0-0 draw. For the neutral, there are few better games to watch than those between these two vibrant, attacking teams (although admittedly, when the two sides met last October at the Signal Iduna Park it did end goalless).
Moreover, neither side has fared particularly well in the Bundesliga this season, with Dortmund in 3rd but still 16 points off leaders Bayern Munich and Schalke down in 9th with no discernible chance of European football. This, however, should not dissuade anyone from tuning in to Saturday’s Revierderby as there is still a raft of exciting talent on show for both sides. Dortmund are able to boast promising youngsters such as Julian Weigl and Ousmane Dembélé while Schalke possess the sought-after Max Meyer and Swiss youngster Breel Embolo. Established talents such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus grace the visitors while the hosts will be led by talismanic captain Benedikt Höwedes.
Given the rich history, unpredictable peaks and troughs in form, controversy and, above all, goals, you would be mad to miss this one on Saturday evening.