Last updated 4 months ago | By AFP
Borussia Dortmund’s young stars Erling Braut Haaland and Jadon Sancho will be hunting more goals today in “the most unusual derby in history” against Schalke as the German Bundesliga returns behind locked doors.
Dortmund usually expect 82,000 spectators at Signal Iduna Park for a home derby, but the stadium will be near-empty with only a handful of media and officials admitted.
Even national team coach Joachim Loew will not be allowed in to watch his Germany players live on their return to action.
“It will be the most unusual derby in history,” former Dortmund captain Sebastian Kehl told German daily Welt.
Normally, a home derby against Schalke comes alive “through the fans, from their emotions, from the enthusiasm in the stadium,” Kehl added.
Dortmund are looking to close the four-point gap behind leaders Bayern Munich, who visit Union Berlin tomorrow.
However, Dortmund’s iconic south stand, dubbed “The Yellow Wall” and normally packed with 25,000 passionate fans will - like the rest of the stadium - stand empty.
“The players will miss the chance for extra motivation by the fans and the atmosphere,” admitted Kehl.
While league action in England, Spain and Italy is still at least a month away, the German Football League (DFL) has drawn up detailed hygiene guidelines to restart.
The Bundesliga is set to become the first top European league to return during the pandemic, which has so far claimed around 7,700 lives in Germany.
At games around the country, substitutes will wear masks, goal celebrations will be replaced by elbow taps while handshakes and hugs before kick-off are a no-go.
“A lot of things will start from scratch on Saturday,” Dortmund winger Julian Brandt told Sky.
“There will be no real advantages and disadvantages to playing home or away.
“In the end, it depends on who best accepts this situation and can best deal with it.”
The pressure is on Haaland, 19, and Sancho, 20, to continue their goal-rich partnership, despite the empty terraces, and steer injury-depleted Dortmund to victory.
Midfield enforcers Emre Can and Axel Witsel are out with muscle strains, while playmaker Marco Reus is recovering from a groin problem. Haaland was in stunning form when the league was suspended in mid-March with nine goals in eight Bundesliga appearances since joining from Salzburg.
Sancho also terrorised defences with 14 goals and 16 assists in 23 league games.
Meanwhile, Augsburg coach Heiko Herrlich will have to sit out the Bundesliga resumption after breaking quarantine rules to go and buy a tube of toothpaste.
The 48-year-old Herrlich was to have made his debut as coach of the top flight strugglers in today’s game with Wolfsburg after a two-month wait when the sport was shutdown because of the coronavirus.