A few weeks ago it would have been unthinkable that Schalke 04 would go into a district derby against Borussia Dortmund with confidence. Now it's reality. "The opponent is in a good mood. But we have a home game. We're back - and we want to show that," said Schalke coach Thomas Reis, looking ahead to the big derby next weekend after the 2-0 (1-0 ) in the small derby on Saturday at VfL Bochum.
"We're number one in the pot," chanted the Schalke fans exuberantly - knowing full well that the unloved BVB with ten competitive wins in a row is the best second half team in the league and is playing for the championship.
The only other Bundesliga team that is still undefeated in the second half of the season: FC Schalke. "Our self-confidence is growing from week to week. We're back in the thick of it now," said attacker Marius Bülter, who had decided the Revierderby against Bochum with his goal to make it 2-0 (78th minute). As if to prove Schalke's increased self-esteem, coach Reis gave the route for the game of the year against BVB: "We want to score again because we need more points."
The 49-year-old has made an amazing change from being ridiculed at the bottom to a competitive Bundesliga club that is difficult to beat. The former shooting gallery of the league has conceded a single goal in the six games in the second half of the season since the change in goal - Ralf Fährmann replaced Alexander Schwolow.
Moritz Jenz is outstanding from a defense that was transformed by a few loans in winter. Schalke haven't had such a strong, confident and solid defensive leader as the loanee from FC Lorient for years.
Due to the stable basic order, Schalke believe that they have worked out a certain amount of luck - if such a thing even exists. In fact, on Saturday there was a lot going on at VfL in the direction of Schalke and against Bochum, who are currently conceding defeat after defeat. "The momentum is now clearly on the Schalke side," said Bochum's coach Thomas Letsch on Sunday to the TV station Bild about the general situation in the relegation battle.
Just a month ago, Schalke was six points behind a non-relegation zone. After the second win in a row on Saturday, it is not for the first time since October 2022 and is tied with three other clubs. "Thomas played a big part in it," said Schalke's team manager Gerald Asamoah in the Sport1 "double pass" about coach Reis.
With emotions, the coach managed to bring the virtues onto the pitch that are particularly valued in the Ruhr area: diligence and struggle. "It also shows that the fans love us again," Asamoah said.
Reis himself is very matter-of-fact and relaxed. Especially in Bochum he was a role model in this discipline. At his old place of work, where he has lived with few interruptions since 1995 and worked in various positions at VfL until September, he was given a rough welcome. "If you're not a dishonorable bastard, then who are?" was emblazoned on a poster in the VfL fan corner. There were also "We are Bochumers and you are not" chants.
The fans alluded to a quote from Reis in September after contacts with Schalke had already been reported last summer, which Reis had vehemently denied. "If I'm not from Bochum, then who?" Reis said at the time. A little later, the coach, who had meanwhile been fired in Bochum, was hired by the unloved neighbor.
On Saturday, Reis calmly accepted the insults and also refrained from exuberant celebrations. "It is what it is. The words could certainly have been chosen a little differently, but somehow that's part of it," he said, finding forgiving words: "I would prefer it if both clubs stayed in at the end."
DFL for the game 23. Matchday table