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Europa League: Borussia Dortmund, Schalke brush derby plans to one side

The Ruhrpott's two biggest clubs will contest the 87th Bundesliga derby on Sunday at Signal Iduna Park. However, there's business to settle first in Europe with Dortmund on the verge of the Last 32.

Borussia Dortmund and Schalke will meet in Sunday's eagerly-anticipated Ruhr derby, but for now their focus is on taking a step closer to the knockout rounds of the UEFA Europa League.

Thomas Tuchel's men could qualify for the Round of 32 with a win at home to Qabala of Azerbaijan and if Greek side PAOK lose against Krasnodar. Dortmund are unbeaten in seven European matches, the campaign beginning as early as July for Tuchel as his side participated in the earliest rounds of the competition.

Excellent performances in the Bundesliga against Augsburg and Werder Bremen have directed Tuchel's team back on track, with the gap at the top of the league cut to five points. And despite the draw of the first derby of the season to come at the weekend, Tuchel has his mind on only one thing ahead of Thursday night.

"We know the importance of Sunday's match, but we have to have full concentration to achieve the best performance possible tomorrow night," the Dortmund head coach said at his press conference on Wednesday. "Whoever gets to wear the Dortmund kit tomorrow must be ready to play his game - with everything he has."
Dortmund were presented with some good news as Nuri Sahin and Erik Durm returned to training. Their first-team returns, however, are still several weeks off.

Beating the striking Blues

Fußball Europa League Schalke 04 - Sparta Prag

Defender Benedikt Höwedes is injured again and will be missing for the trip to Prague

Schalke will be able to call upon the services of midfielder Johannes Geis despite his five-match suspension after being dismissed at Borussia Mönchengladbach last Sunday.

Leroy Sane's leveler guaranteed a point for the Royal Blues when held 2-2 by Sparta Prague on matchday three. 19-ear old Sane has five goals already this season and has been the side's most productive attacker, whilst those with higher expectations have struggled around him.

Despite sitting fourth in the league, Schalke's finishing has been questionable with only 14 goals. The team's highest scoring striker is Klaas-Jan Huntelaar who has managed to score just twice - Franco Di Santo hasn't got off the mark in the league, while Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting has scored once.

But Breitenreiter, who has installed an attacking style this season, has given the vote of confidence to his underperforming center-forwards.

"The fact is that we’re not making the most of our chances in the league at the moment," Breitenreiter said. "They’ve scored seven goals between them in three Europa League games. They've shown that they work together well. I'll never lose my faith in our strikers and we'll continue to work together to achieve successful results."

A win for Schalke in the Czech Republic would put them in pole position to progress, yet work would still need to be done against APOEL Nicosia and Asteras Tripolis in the final matches.

Meanwhile, Markus Weinzierl's Augsburg are looking to build on their first-ever European win two weeks ago when AZ Alkmaar make the short trip to Bavaria.

But Augsburg's domestic form is a growing concern: the Bavarians have won just one game this season and are bottom of the Bundesliga. They pulled Saturday's game against Mainz back from 2-0 to 3-2 before proceeding to concede in stoppage time and leave themselves in the bottom-three.

Weinzierl's problems are compounded by injuries to Jeong Ho-Hong, Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker and Halil Altintop. Left-back Philipp Max is doubtful having trained yesterday.

Featured Europa League matchday four matches:

Celtic vs. Molde

Ajax vs. Fenerbahce

Krasnodar vs. PAOK

Club Brugge vs. Legia

Sion vs. Bordeaux

Dinamo Minsk vs. Villarreal

Rosenborg vs. Lazio

Lech vs. Fiorentina

Athletic Bilbao vs. Partizan

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