Bayern visit Berlin and Dortmund host Schalke behind closed doors
BERLIN – Borussia Dortmund will attempt to bounce back from Champions League elimination when they host Schalke on Saturday while Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich visit to Union Berlin.
But the passion of the Ruhr derby and the historic appearance of giants Bayern in the east of the German capital will be undermined by the closed door nature of the fixtures due to the coronavirus.
"Every footballer and fan can't imagine games without each other," Schalke's Guido Burgstaller told the club homepage.
"Of course it isn't perfect to have to go ahead without any fans, but everyone's health comes first."
The strange nature of the matches played in front of empty stands was made apparent by Wednesday's Rhine derby between Borussia Moenchengladbach and Cologne.
"It is really something different," referee Deniz Aytekin told Sky television after that game. "Something is missing - massively.
"I can only hope that such a thing does not continue long-term."
The ban on fans, in Germany introduced by local authorities rather than nationally, has been used as the alternative - not playing at all - is considered worse.
And while clubs must take a financial hit in the short-term, the German football league (DFL) believes it is necessary.
Should promotion and relegation not be known, or entrants to European competition, the next season would start in chaos - if it could start at all.
"In spite of the difficult circumstances, this is the only way for clubs and DFL to plan reliably for the coming season," a league statement said.
Promoted Union are enjoying a strong maiden season in the top-flight and now host Bayern, the most renowned opponent in the league, without their fans.
The club and their local authority Treptow-Koepenick were criticized for initially saying supporters could attend this week before rowing back on Wednesday.
Union president Dirk Zingler explained the process in an open letter to fans which also addressed the issue of liability - something which is likely to become more pressing across not football and all sport as the battle against the virus continues.
"Both as an employer of several hundred people and as a contractual partner of numerous suppliers and service providers, and with regard to those who visit the stadium, we are dependent on such a legal position in order not to be in breach of contract and be liable for further damages," Ziegler wrote.
"This is now given and it is of existential importance for our club. Cancelling it ourselves, without an official order, could have had serious legal and economic consequences for our club."
Bayern are four points clear at the top of the table thanks to a last 2-0 win over Augsburg, though Thomas Mueller admitted a poor performance was "not the level at which we want to perform, not the level we displayed in the last few weeks."
Dortmund are second in the league going into their derby having been knocked out of the Champions League by Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.
"We didn't produce the performance that was required to reach the next round of the competition," sporting director Michael Zorc told Sky. "Our game was littered with too many errors."
Schalke sixth and in poor form. "Despite the current situation, and that we are not the favourites, we want to be able to put in a good performance," said Burgstaller. "We will go into the game fully motivated."
The weekend opens with a relegation six-pointer between third-last Fortuna Dusseldorf and bottom club Paderborn while Saturday also has Hoffenheim v Hertha Berlin, RB Leipzig v Freiburg and Cologne v Mainz.
Eintracht Frankfurt v Gladbach and Augsburg v Wolfsburg are on Sunday before struggling Werder Bremen complete the round at home to Bayer Leverkusen on Monday.dpa