Schalke vs Dortmund in the Revierderby

Match Analysis
Alex Fischer

Alex Fischer

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Local Derbies are where club heroes are born. Both on the pitch and on the sidelines. They also tend to be games where Managers come up with new tactical twists or where they throw everything out the window to get that elusive Derby win.  So, let’s take a look at what happened in the latest Revierderby between Schalke and Dortmund at the Veltins-Arena:

The hosts started the game in the 4-2-3-1 they have been playing since the first leg in the Europa League against Gladbach. Kolasinac wasn’t deemed fit enough to play so Coke made his Schalke debut with Kehrer shifting to the left. That is the 6th position he has played this season if you include left Wingback and right Wingback as positions separate from their Fullback versions. Stambouli came in for Geis to provide more defensive stability and with Schalke playing on the counter they would not have been able to utilize Geis’ strengths anyway.

Thomas Tuchel decided to stay with the 3-4-2-1 he had his team play in four of the last five matches, the only exception being the 2-1 loss in Berlin where he played a 3-5-2 with Schürrle as the second striker. Schürrle was injured anyway but it seems like Tuchel has discarded that idea by now. Dortmund also made a couple of other changes compared to their last game against Ingolstadt with the most notable being the returns of Ousmane Dembelé and Julian Weigl.

First Half

As expected by most prior to the game, Schalke set up to play on the counter, conceding possession to Dortmund. Weinzierl has a tendency to set his teams up slightly lopsided, meaning one side pushes really high up the pitch, while the other side stays a bit deeper at times almost turning the left winger into a second striker and the left fullback into a left winger. This obviously led to most Schalke attacks – 51% during the course of the game – to come down the left. Schalke’s left side also had the pacier players with Chuopo-Moting and Kehrer with this passing combination being the most common for Schalke.

This is how the teams lined up with Dortmund in possession. You’ll notice that Passlack on the right pushed up higher than Schmelzer on the left. This made him a better outlet for sweeping passed in behind the Schalke backline and with Kagawa not being a winger like Dembelé on the other side of the two behind Aubameyang, he was tasked with providing the width. However, his advanced position also meant that the young German would not be involved in the build-up very much. Dortmund tried to build from the back through the CBs who were tasked with transitioning the ball into Central Midfield, preferably to Julian Weigl who is obviously known for his ability to switch the play or to shift possession around the backline.

Just like in the first Revierderby of this season, Goretzka, who was more at the top of a Central Midfield three than an Attacking Midfielder, was tasked with keeping Weigl at bay. So whenever Dortmund had possession within their back three, Goretzka shifted along, keeping Weigl in his Cover Shadow. This all but negated him in the first half, meaning that the main way for Dortmund to break through the Schalke defence was using the strategy Schalke was using: Counterattacking.

Out of possession, Dortmund set up in what might be the best defending formation that currently exists in football – the 5-4-1. Passlack and Schmelzer dropped back, Weigl and Castro sat in front with Kagawa and Dembele shuttling in front of these two. With the pace of Dembele and Aubameyang, this is great to Counterattack and this is pretty much what happened for the only real chance of the first half. For the most part, this half was played on the Schalke left/Dortmund right side with Schalke managing to keep the play away from Dembelé for the most part because Schalke knew they would struggle to contain him.

All in all, both teams cancelled each other out in the first half. Dortmund struggled to play through the middle with Weigl being occupied by Goretzka, prompting Castro and/or Kagawa to drop deep to support the build-up. Schalke had a few opportunities on the break but Dortmund’s offside trap worked very well and so both teams went back into the dressing rooms with a 0-0.

Second Half

With the start of the second half, Markus Weinzierl withdrew Leon Goretzka and pushed up Nabil Bentaleb. Assumingly this was because Bentaleb tends to play his way out of trouble with mixed results so in an advanced position he could cause less trouble for Schalke while applying his passing strengths. However, neither team made any substitutes.  Just like in the first half, both teams were initially unable to break the other team down with the main chance creation coming from set pieces on the Schalke side and from counter attacking on the Dortmund side. A Counterattack was also how the 1-0 happened. Goretzka crossed it in for Bentaleb and Burgstaller in the box and with two of the three Midfielders in the Dortmund half, Dembelé just cut Schalke open.

As a reaction to the goal, Schalke pushed their defensive line up, leaving more space for the likes of Aubameyang and Dembelé to exploit. The time between Dortmund’s goal and Schalke’s equaliser was probably the best spell the visitors had and with the space Weigl and especially Kagawa – who was usually coming from deeper than the other two forward players – were afforded now thanks to Schalke pushing forward, Dortmund created a couple of opportunities to make it to 2-0 and to seal the Derby win. With 13 minutes to go Thilo Kehrer scored his first senior goal and levelled things up to 1-1.

After the goal and the injury to Marcel Schmelzer, who had been very involved in terms of build-up and Counterpressing, Dortmund did not find a way back into it and so this 150th Revierderby ended in the third consecutive Derby draw.


After some defensive uncertainties against Ingolstadt and Hertha, Dortmund returned to their defensive best, limiting Schalke to a few chances that mainly came from set pieces. However, just like in these two games, Thomas Tuchel’s men didn’t manage to create enough against a solid side that blocked passing lanes to Julian Weigl. It was only when Schalke pushed higher, that Dortmund had their chances to put the game to bed. This draw sees Dortmund drop to 4th and the game against Hoffenheim on MD32 looks likely to be a key game for them.

Schalke are now unbeaten in five competitive matches; however, they drew three of them. Their defence seems to be stable again and with only three points behind the Europa League places, everything seems to be possible despite the mixed season Markus Weinzierl had so far in his first year at Schalke.

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