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Ruhr Pressure Cooker Ready to Boil Over

The Bundesliga's second match day offers fans two classic encounters. The Ruhr Valley will be transfixed by Dortmund's clash with rivals Schalke. In nearby Leverkusen, champions Bayern Munich face Bayer 04.

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Schalke striker Kevin Kuranyi looks to shoot down rival Dortmund

Ever since Germans first took a leather ball and started booting it into a net, the two Ruhr Valley clubs, Dortmund and Schalke from neighboring Gelsenkirchen have displayed their disdain for each other on the pitch. The two Ruhrpott rivals have met 126 times in total, 66 of those in the Bundesliga.

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Fans in BVB yellow and Schalke royal blue live to see this game. And the passion always makes its way from the terraces to the pitch.

Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick's troop must play in the unfriendly confines of the Westfalen Stadium but their fortunes there have been particularly good in the recent past. Schalke have not lost in the last six encounters in front of a regularly sold out 70,000 capacity in Dortmund's cauldron arena.

"In the last few years we have looked pretty good in Dortmund. I am assuming that this time it will be the same," Schalke goalkeeper Frank Rost told Sport Bild.

In the Arena AufSchalke on May 14, Dortmund broke a 12-game winless streak, topping off a tremendous comeback in the second half of the season. Both clubs value the rivalry and use it as a catapult for success in the Bundesliga. BVB need the boost more than Schalke, coming away with a tie in their first match and having not reached the UEFA Cup after crashing out of the InterToto Cup in the summer.

Bayern meets Bayer

Coach Felix Magath probably has a bone to pick with Leverkusen. Last season in his first appearance as Munich coach in the BayArena, his team got pasted 4-1. Naturally, it was just a small hurdle in their march to the league championship.

FC Bayern München - Borussia Mönchengladbach Eröffnungsspiel Bundesligasaison 2005/06

Two Bayern players (red) clamp down on a Gladbach opponent in the first week

Revenge may be on Magath's mind, but only far, far at the back. The big controversy for the team, and there is almost always one at Bayern Munich, is the storm surrounding midfielder Michael Ballack. There's no lack of column inches being devoted to the subject of whether the Germany captain is out of favor or not.

Magath, not a man of many words, has been quiet, saying that all 23 men on the squad are both starters and substitutes. Words that might confuse some soccer players -- but it's doubtful that Michael Ballack thinks he is a substitute.

Leverkusen started their campaign with an impressive effort against Frankfurt last week, cruising to a 4-1 victory. And could that be repeated?

"We have the quality," Bayer midfielder Bernd Schneider told Kicker magazine.

The contenders with easier assignments

Keyplayer Saison 2005/06 HSV Raphael Van der Vaart

Hamburg's Rafael van der Vaart should lead with his head

One of the dark horses in the Bundesliga this season must be Hamburg. They have brought in quality personnel, most notably Dutch international Rafael van der Vaart and on Saturday, Thomas Doll's club gets the pleasure of travelling to Bielefeld, the one side they have had the most success against in their history.

The Bielefeld defense resembled a sieve in a 5-2 defeat against Bremen, holes that must be stopped soon or coach Thomas von Heesen will be battling against a rapdly sinking ship.

Hertha Berlin face the new boys from Frankfurt. Soccer followers always expect a lot from the capital city team, but Berlin has on the whole been disappointing. A home match against Frankfurt, where they score two goals on average, should be an easy assignment for Falko Götz' squad led by Brazilian extraordinaire Marcelinho.

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