Dortmund - Borussia Dortmund and VfL Wolfsburg lock horns on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 15:30 CET), representing two of the five teams who’ve managed to break FC Bayern Munich's stranglehold on the Bundesliga in the past 15 seasons.
Wolfsburg's 2008/09 success must feel like a lifetime ago, but for double-winners Dortmund a third-successive title remains firmly on the agenda, despite what the league table might suggest.
"Dortmund are really strong right now. They're class, as we saw in the Champions League," said Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs, whose 15th-placed Wolves trail Saturday’s opponents by eleven points - the same number league leaders Bayern hold over their yellow and black nemesis, Dortmund.
"It's extraordinary what the team has done on the international stage, but now is the time to draw a line under the Champions League. We have to switch our attentions to the two German competitions as soon as possible," explained Dortmund chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke, looking no further than Saturday's encounter at home to a rejuvenated Wolfsburg.
"Step by step"
The Wolves appear to have turned a corner in recent weeks, picking up eleven points from their last seven outings. According to Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp, the turnaround is due to "pace, creativity, discipline and consistency" - just four elements that comprise the so-called 'Köstner Effect'. "That's dangerous for us [...] unfortunately for the opposition, the team are enjoying their football again," Klopp warned.
To his credit, Köstner has squeezed the best out of midfielder and summer acquisition , a further two ingredients central to Wolfsburg's steady climb up the table. However, with his side only four points better off than 16th-placed 1899 Hoffenheim, the Wolfsburg coach was keen to stress that there's still a long way to go: "We have to take it step by step."
"We have to be strong"
That next step sees Köstner lead his charges out at Dortmund's imposing Signal Iduna Park, where Wolfsburg last won in May 2008. To make matters worse, Diego's involvement is in doubt after the Brazilian took a knock to his left ankle in a challenge with Emanuel Pogatetz in training on Thursday.
So, with the recent history books against them, creative force Diego battling for fitness and the likes of and set to return to the fray for the hosts, the pre-match words of Wolfsburg defender Simon Kjaer carry even greater significance. "We have to be on our game from the word go. We have to be strong," asserted the Danish defender.
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Felipe Santana, Hummels, Schmelzer - Gündogan, Leitner - Blaszczykowski, Reus, Großkreutz - Lewandowski
VfL Wolfsburg: Benaglio - Fagner, Naldo, Kjaer, M. Schäfer - Polak, Josué - Hasebe, Diego, Olic - Dost
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