- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2016

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) - Schalke has gone from a historically cold start to one of the hottest teams in the Bundesliga in a matter of a few weeks.

The season could not have gotten off worse for Schalke, which lost its first five league games - a club record nobody wanted.

Since then, however, Schalke has won five straight in all competitions as it heads into one of the biggest matches of the season in Germany against Borussia Dortmund.

The “Revier Derby,” named after the coalmining Ruhr region, is the most anticipated match in the area no matter which positions in the standings the two teams happen to be sitting on.

The coal mines are all but gone, but the passion of the derby lives on unabated.

For many fans, victory in the derby is the only thing that matters in a season.

Not so for Schalke coach Markus Weinzierl, who will be making his derby debut.

“I think more of long-term development. It’s about improvement and the trend is positive,” Weinzierl said ahead of Saturday’s match in Dortmund. “We are still trying to rebound from the bad start. We haven’t achieved anything.”

Schalke has a large, committed following, but the team is one of the notorious underachievers in the Bundesliga.

It has not won a championship since 1958 - five years before the Bundesliga was established.

It went into this season with high hopes, which still might materialize. Borussia Moenchengladbach lost its first five games last season and still managed to qualify for the Champions League, which is Schalke’s goal.

The club lured Weinzierl, one of Germany’s most sought-after young coaches, and revamped the team in a major spending spree.

“It takes time to get the team to understand what we want as coaches and to use its strength,” Weinzierl said. “New players came into the squad relatively late. I had to get to know the players.”

Of the new arrivals, defender Coke, still has not played after injuring his knee before the season. Forward Breel Embolo had his ankle broken in a tackle just as he was beginning to show his potential.

While new players largely sat out the first few games, they are now beginning to make their mark. Naldo, Abdul Rahman Baba and Nabil Bentaleb are usually in the starting 11. Yevhen Konoplyanka scored two goals in Schalke’s 3-2 German Cup win over Nuremberg and one in the Europa League at Krasnodar.

Bentaleb, on loan from Tottenham, also scored three goals in his last two matches.

While Schalke seems to be reviving its season, Dortmund is going through a mini slum, winless in its last three Bundesliga matches. Coach Thomas Tuchel has been forced to use several untested young players because of a slew of injuries hitting his team.

“The match will raise a lot of emotion and it will be decided by details. Experience could play a role,” Weinzierl said.

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