Cologne - Before the season got under way, few followers of the German game could have envisaged that Borussia Dortmund would play host to their namesakes from Mönchengladbach on Matchday 11 with 13 points and 14 places in the table separating the sides; fewer still that it will be 2013 UEFA Champions League finalists Dortmund languishing in an automatic relegation berth when they run out on Sunday to the backdrop of another 80-thousand strong crowd at the Signal Iduna Park.
Successful European assignments
The visitors, by contrast, are flying high, third in the table and just four points behind pacesetters FC Bayern München. Alongside the record champions, Gladbach are now the only other team still unbeaten in the Bundesliga this season, having last weekend dispatched the third member of that diminishing group, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.
The in-form Foals followed up the 3-1 home win by breaking a club record set back in 1970/71 under the legendary Hennes Weisweiler, stretching their streak to 18 games without defeat in all competitions courtesy of a 2-0 win over Apollon Limassol FC in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday. With Villarreal CF dropping points in Zurich, the Foals now sit top of Group A on the back of collecting eight from a possible 12 points and conceding just twice. With a place in the last 32 on offer, Favre's charges now have their fate in their own hands with two group games remaining.
Dortmund, meanwhile, headed into Tuesday's Champions League home game against Galatasaray SK knowing a win would see them through to the last 16 with a couple of matches to spare and duly deivered as a 4-1 victory maintained their flawless record in the tournament. All of which stands in stark relief to their trials and tribulations on the Bundesliga front, where Arjen Robben's late penalty at the Allianz Arena condemned them to a fifth straight loss in last weekend's big match.
Reus required to shine against former club
It's an unprecedented situation in the Jürgen Klopp era but the coach himself, while noting the 2-1 loss to arch-rivals Bayern was ultimately “not undeserved,” nonetheless took some solace from “a great first half, the best in a long time”. Things are slowly but surely looking up on the personnel front, as well. Playmaker Ilkay Gündogan has finally returned to the fold from a marathon 14-month injury lay-off for starters. And then there is Marco Reus. Available once again following wearisome back-to-back injuries, the gifted No11 gives Klopp a whole range of fresh attacking options and he it was who finished off a great move involving Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Shinji Kagawa to put Dortmund in front in Munich.
Reus, of course, made his big-time breakthrough at Gladbach, before returning to his hometown club – where he had failed to make it all the way through the youth ranks – for serious money in the summer of 2012. That September, he bagged a superb brace in a 5-0 demolition of his former employers, which remains BVB's last victory over Gladbach to date. They badly need one this time, first and foremost to arrest the worrying downward spiral. All talk of European form is naturally enough on hold for the moment, not least because no Bundesliga club on so few points ten games into the season has ever gone on to finish in the top four.
That said, the feat is not beyond a team of the demonstrable quality of Klopp's Dortmund but Gladbach have their own agenda, as well as the confidence and ability to see it through. While careful to issue the standard warning that “there's still a long way to go”, sporting director Max Eberl summed up the Foals' current mindset thusly: “We've always said that if one of the league's big guns slip up, we want to be there to take advantage of it.” At the Signal Iduna Park on Sunday, they have the opportunity to do just that.