Höwedes: Derby victory would be a great birthday present

Benedikt Höwedes could receive the perfect 27th birthday gift on Saturday (28.02) if his team can put in a successful performance against their local rivals. The Royal Blues’ captain spoke about the derby:

Benedikt Höwedes, you were born on the 29th February 1988. We’re currently in a leap year so the 29th is missed out. Even so, what is your biggest wish for this coming weekend? 

"That’s obvious – three points in the derby. That wouldn’t just be a fantastic present for me but for everyone associated with Schalke"

Is there a noticeable change in atmosphere during a derby week compared to others? 

"Many players from our team come from the area so they know what it means when we play against BVB. People in the region are excited and look forward to the encounter. It will be spoken about everywhere, from the petrol station to the bakers. This game is simply very special. Despite the heated atmosphere that we’re expecting in the stadium, we have to keep a cool head in order to get a successful result from the match. After two games without a win in the Bundesliga, we are eager to get three points"

Do you recall memories from past derby matches to motivate yourself more? 

"The derby itself is motivation enough. I don’t need to keep past games in mind to fire myself up"

How do you rate BVB at present? 

"It looks as though Dortmund have recovered relatively well from the low points they had earlier in the season. It was only a matter of time for me until BVB were back to normal. We don’t want to be added to the list of teams that Dortmund have beaten recently to improve their position in the table"

Dortmund were in action midweek against Juventus Turin. Will their Champions League game have an impact on the derby? 

"No, I don’t think so. BVB has a squad which is capable of taking part in numerous competitions. Following our Champions League game against Real Madrid, we were all recovered and fully fit to take on Werder Bremen in our next match"

What will important elements of Schalke’s game be this weekend? 

"We must be solid in defence and take our chances. What’s especially important is that when we counterattack, we need to at least get to the end third and be challenging the keeper. I think that recently we’ve not done this so well; we can do better. We’ve managed to score often in the past despite only having a few chances" 

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar returns after serving his red card suspension and recovering from injury… 

"Huntelaar is someone who doesn’t hesitate for long and can shoot from many positions. That always makes him a threat to other teams. Even if the first shot isn’t successful, the rebound could be even more dangerous"

From good news to bad news: Joel Matip will be missing from defence through injury. How big a loss is that? 

"It’s very bitter. Joel has done a very good job in the back three over the past few weeks. We’ve been very solid and have dealt well with many dangerous situations. Joel is a very important player for us with his tackling ability and aerial strength. However, I am sure that we can compensate for the loss. Roman Neustädter is a possible replacement. He played really well in the middle of the back three on a couple of occasions during the first half of the season. I’m not too worried though; we can maintain our defensive stability"