Dortmund - Borussia Dortmund go into their final match of the 2013/14 Hinrunde against Hertha Berlin on Saturday (kick-off 15.30 CET) knowing they have to beat the capital club if they wish to keep their faltering title hopes alive.
"Enjoying their football"
BVB are currently 12 points behind current leaders FC Bayern München in the Bundesliga table, and although they can close that gap with victory at Signal Iduna Park this weekend, they will have played one game more than the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup finalists following the Matchday 17 encounter.
Considering Dortmund's lengthy injury list, fans may be feeling that the Winterpause has come at the right time. Borussia's head coach doesn't see it that way, however. "I'm not looking forward to the upcoming break. What I am looking forward to is the opportunity to win our last game of the year," said Jürgen Klopp in his pre-match press conference. "The players seem to be enjoying their football, and that's important if we want to be successful this season."
Having lost to both Bayern and Bayer 04 Leverkusen in their last two home matches, Klopp's charges will be searching for their first league victory on home soil since their 6-1 win over VfB Stuttgart at the beginning of November. "We're due a victory at our own stadium," acknowledged the 46-year-old. "We'll do everything in our power to get that win, but to do so, we have to defend better than we did against Hoffenheim."
With injuries at the back still limiting Klopp's selection options, youngsters Marian Sarr and Erik Durm are likely to keep their place in the side, although Marcel Schmelzer could return following a four-week lay-off with a calf injury. Midfield duo Sven Bender and Ilkay Gündogan are still out, while Klopp is also sweating on the fitness of Jakub Blaszczykowski and Sebastian Kehl, who picked up knocks in training on Thursday.
With centre-back John Anthony Brooks suffering from the flu, Hertha coach Jos Luhukay may be forced to field Hajime Hosogai in the heart of defence at Signal Iduna Park. The Japan international was moved from his favoured holding midfield position against SV Werder Bremen last weekend in order to deputise for Brooks, who was replaced after just 38 minutes of that match. If Luhukay opts to move Nico Schulz into left midfield, Levan Kobiashvili is in line to fill in at left-back.
Hertha have undoubtedly been one of the success stories of the first half of the 2013/14 season. Die Alte Dame are currently seventh in the Bundesliga table and travel to Signal Iduna Park high on confidence. "It's not luck that we're in such a good position. We're there on merit, but we need a performance like the one we gave at Bayern if we want to get a positive result," said Luhukay on Thursday.
Berlin suffered a 3-2 defeat to the record title holders on Matchday 10, but Luhukay's team won a lot of plaudits for their fearless display at the Allianz Arena, and the Dutch coach feels they are more than capable of leaving North-Rhine Westphalia with at least a point. "We have to be compact at the back and attack with confidence in order to exploit Dortmund's defensive problems," said the 50-year-old. "Playing in front of 80,000 fans should be ample motivation for my players to do well."
Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Großkreutz, Sokratis, Sarr, Durm - Kehl, Sahin - Aubameyang, H. Mkhitaryan, Reus - Lewandowski
Hertha: Kraft - Pekarik, Lustenberger, Hosogai, N. Schulz - Cigerci, Niemeyer - M. Ndjeng, Ronny, Skjelbred - Ramos