Marco Reus and Mario Götze purring again as Borussia Dortmund march on
Bayern Munich may be ramping up the pressure on Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund in a title race that intensifies with each passing week, but Lucien Favre's side have a not-so-secret weapon keeping them at bay: the Marco Reus / Mario Götze axis.
The two Germany internationals are close friends off the pitch and now that both are back to full fitness and playing regularly again, their effortless understanding of the other's game is bearing fruit.
And that can only mean good news for Dortmund. In their first spell together at the club, so devastating was their link-up play that even Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer was impressed.
"At Barcelona Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi are building a triangle," he told Bild in 2012. "But as a classic duo there is nobody better than the prolific Reus and Götze. The way they split Ajax apart in the Champions League [a 4-1 win in Amsterdam] impressed me."
Fast-forward to the present day and the signs are there that the duo are no less effective. Both were on the scoresheet in Matchday 19's 5-1 thumping of Hannover, the first time they had both hit the target in the same game for Dortmund in over six years (since a 5-0 win away to Werder Bremen on 19 January 2013).
Admittedly, Götze was at Bayern for three of the intervening years, but having returned to Dortmund in summer 2016, he has struggled with injury and illness to such an extent that he has only played in 46 of 87 possible league games – incidentally, the same number as Reus.
In other words, they have not featured in almost half (47 per cent) of their side's Bundesliga outings over the last two and a half seasons, and have not always been available at the same time.
Now, however, those bad times are a thing of the past. Reus is in the form of his life, with 12 goals and seven assists his best-ever return at this stage of a season for Dortmund. He added one of each in the win over Hannover, and Götze could not hide his delight at the final whistle:
"Marco's a fantastic player. He brings a huge amount of quality and offers a big attacking threat. He's always available to receive the ball, is always there for the team and is a big part of our play – especially going forward. That's important. It's great that he's here, leading as captain. For him to underline that with an excellent performance is unparalleled."
Götze also deserves praise for fighting his way back into the side after featuring primarily as a substitute early on in the campaign. Now, however, he is keeping Paco Alcacer, among others, out of the starting line-up playing up front. He repaid Favre's faith in him with a fine strike against Hannover, his second goal of the campaign.
Watch: Götze discusses Reus' importance to Dortmund
"Mario feels football," purred Favre recently of the 2014 World Cup winner. "It's true. He feels football. He plays the right way. It's as simple as that. And he always gives his all."
There may well be a long way to go in the title race yet, but at this rate Reus and Götze look set to prove Beckenbauer right all over again.
Marco Reus extends! 10 things on a BVB legend
Get to know the Dortmund captain, who has extended his contract for a further year...
Mario Götze: The Borussia Dortmund Wunder Years
Ahead of a reunion with his old club on Saturday, we look back on the Frankfurt star's time in black and yellow.
The story behind Dortmund's stunning rise
BVB have made a perfect start to the year to go level on points with Bayern at the top...