Berlin - When Borussia Dortmund host Schalke 04 in their Ruhr valley clash on Saturday there is more at stake than just bragging rights in what is Germany's biggest derby.
Both teams are eager to get their seasons back into full swing with Schalke eyeing a Champions League spot for next season and Dortmund still battling to avoid relegation.
Last season's runners-up Dortmund, three points above the drop zone in 12th spot, experienced a nightmare in the first half of the season, dropping to last place and have only recently got out of immediate relegation trouble.
Juergen Klopp's team have now won three games in a row, the first time they have achieved this feat this season, and are eager to keep climbing with European spots still a possibility despite their implosion earlier in the campaign.
"We have been playing our game well for the past few weeks," said captain Mats Hummels. "I think we can even take it up a notch against Schalke in the derby on Saturday."
Klopp is expected to have Kevin Kampl, Neven Subotic and Shinji Kagawa back after the trio missed their 2-1 Champions League Round of 16 first leg defeat at Juventus on Tuesday with a virus.
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But he will not have defender Lukasz Piszczek at his disposal with the Poland international ruled out for six weeks with a partial ankle ligament tear against Juventus.
Fellow defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos, nursing a muscle injury from the same game, is also doubtful.
Schalke, with just one win from their last four league games, have been somewhat missing their solid defence and the absence of injured Joel Matip compounds their defensive problems as they lie in fifth place, 20 points behind leaders Bayern Munich.
"I am not questioning our system even if we have failed to win any of our last three games in all competitions," said Schalke captain Benedikt Hoewedes.
"Our system works and what we have been missing lately is greater efficiency at scoring chances. We have been working on that this week."
Schalke, who lost their Champions League round of 16 first leg 2-0 to Real Madrid last week, will have top striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar back in the team to improve on that point after the Dutchman sat out a suspension for a red card earlier this month.
Leaders Bayern can build on their eight-point advantage on Friday when they host lowly Cologne with second-placed VfL Wolfsburg, on 47 points, in action on Sunday at Werder Bremen.For the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page.