Dortmund play host to Hannover on Saturday as the Bundesliga resumes following the recent international break.
BVB have been hit with a blight of injuries over the last few weeks, with Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus, Nuri Sahin, Sven Bender, Marcel Schmelzer, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Sebastian Kehl all joining long-term absentee Lukasz Piszczek in the stands at one point or another.
International breaks are usually nail-biting scenarios in which fans and club management alike keep their fingers crossed that players avoid injury. But in this instance, the time off has been beneficial to Dortmund as several stars have had time to recover. The BVB injury ward is not yet clear, but several stars should be back in action to face Hannover. Here's their most probable XI:
Goalkeeper: Roman Weidenfeller
Roman Weidenfeller is fit and ready to start for Dortmund, and his presence will be a big boost for the Ruhr side. A vocal leader, the the hugely experienced goalkeeper will captain his team and should have a calming effect on Juergen Klopp's makeshift lineup.
Right-Back: Kevin Grosskreutz
Utility man Kevin Grosskreutz is one of the few Dortmund players to have avoided injury this season, and the 25-year-old will certainly be in Klopp's starting lineup. He has deputized at right-back for the injured Lukasz Piszczek all season long thus far and is most likely to feature in that position this weekend. But Grosskreutz could be moved to midfield if Sven Bender fails to recover fitness or Nuri Sahin suffers a setback in his recovery.
Center-Back: Neven Subotic
With Marcel Schmelzer and Sokratis having only recently returned from injuries and Grosskreutz still adapting to his role as a full-back, much will be expected from Neven Subotic in central defense. The Serbia international is uncommonly experienced for a 24-year-old and will need to not only be sharp individually, but also a leader in the back four.
Center-Back: Sokratis Papastathopoulos
With Mats Hummels suspended, Sokratis is set to be his deputy. The ex-Werder Bremen man was injured before the international break, but he turned out for Greece's World Cup qualifiers and is clearly back to fitness. Dortmund need Sokratis fit and on form, given that their only cover for him is 19-year-old Koray Gunter, who has just two minutes of professional experience under his belt.
Left-Back: Marcel Schmelzer
A hamstring tear suffered in late September sidelined Schmelzer for the last few weeks, but the defender trained individually on Thursday and will probably be fit to play by Saturday. Erik Durm performed well in his stead, but he returned from international duty with the Germany U-21s with a slight cold. Schmelzer is much more experienced and accustomed to playing in defense than the former Mainz striker and is a shoe-in to start when fit.
Defensive Midfield: Sven Bender
Bender was badly battered in Dortmund's last match, but the 24-year-old was fit enough to partake in individual training on Thursday. His backup, Sebastian Kehl, is certainly out injured. Klopp has few options; if Bender doesn't quite make it, it's possible that Oliver Kirch might play in central midfield or that Grosskreutz may be moved forward with Durm replacing him at right-back.
Defensive Midfield: Nuri Sahin
Sahin suffered a knock to his ankle before the international break but completed full team training on Thursday. Given that Ilkay Gundogan remains sidelined with back problems, Sahin will be needed to play the role of distributor in deep areas. And he should be fit to start.
Right Wing: Jakub Blaszczykowski
Ever since the beginning of the season, Jakub Blaszcykowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have been involved in a stiff fight for a starting role on the wing. Blaszczykowski has more often than not been Klopp's first choice, and in a game in which BVB are set to play with at least a couple substitute defenders and several others who only recently returned to fitness, the Poland captain's defensive ability gives him an edge.
Central Attacking Midfield: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
One of the few fit Dortmund players who will play in his natural position this weekend is Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Armenian survived the international break unharmed and will play in the position he was signed to occupy: That of central playmaker.
Left Wing: Marco Reus
Like Sahin, Reus took a knock to his ankle before the international break. And like Sahin, Reus trained with the first team on Thursday. The Germany international is therefore expected to be fit to play on Saturday, which will be a big boost to a BVB team that could use some magic to ease the pressure. Having slipped one point behind Bayern, they can't afford to make any more mistakes.
Striker: Robert Lewandowski
In the spring, Robert Lewandowski put Dortmund on his back as he ran rampant against Real Madrid, scoring four goals against Los Blancos in the first leg of their Champions League semifinals tie. BVB may need a similar performance from him again over the weekend if they are to take three points from Hannover.
Their defense and central midfield are makeshift, and it's entirely possible that Dortmund will concede a few goals and/or struggle to build play through the middle third. But Lewandowski has carried the Ruhr side before; he is fit and accordingly is a lock for the role of central striker.
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