Dortmund kick off the second half of their 2013-14 Bundesliga campaign on Saturday as they take on Augsburg at the Signal-Iduna Park. A dearth of form left BVB fourth in the league table in mid-season, and Jurgen Klopp's men will look to begin 2014 on a positive note as they target direct qualification for the 2014-15 Champions League with a top-three finish.
The Ruhr side will take on an impressive Augsburg that, after narrowly avoiding relegation last season, turned more than a few heads last fall. FCA stand eighth in the Bundesliga, with 24 points—just nine fewer than their entire 2012-13 points tally. They are no pushovers and will be keen to assert themselves against a vulnerable Dortmund. To viewers' misfortune, however, new BVB signing and Augsburg loanee Ji Dong-Won has been ruled out of the match and will not be able to face his future club.
Here's a preview of the team Klopp can be expected to field to take on Augsburg:
Goalkeeper: Roman Weidenfeller
Veteran goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller was arguably Dortmund's best and most consistent player of the fall of 2013. The 33-year-old vice-captain remains a key player for Klopp and at this stage is undroppable; his experience and maturity are invaluable in keeping BVB's younger players calm and collected in stressful moments.
Right-Back: Kevin Grosskreutz
The toughest position to call in the Dortmund lineup is that of right-back. Lukasz Piszczek has been brilliant for Dortmund since he joined the club in 2010. But he missed the first half of the current season due to an operation and, during that time, Kevin Grosskreutz proved a more-than-capable deputy. Piszczek is fully fit once more, but he is still short of match practice. He'll likely reclaim his starting role eventually, but in all likelihood he will be used as a substitute on Saturday.
Center-Back: Sokratis Papastathopoulos
With Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels both sidelined, Sokratis Papastathopoulos is the only available Dortmund center-back of appreciable professional experience under the age of 34. The Greek center-back was one of Dortmund's most consistent performers in the first round. Should he impress throughout the spring campaign, Subotic may find it difficult to reclaim his spot in Klopp's lineup when he returns from his ACL rehabilitation.
Center-Back: Sven Bender
Although often injured, a fit Sven Bender is a certain starter in Klopp's lineup. The hard-nosed defensive player is fast becoming a hero for BVB due to the relentless and fearless efforts he gives on the pitch. Although he typically is used in midfield, he may well start in defense, with Sebastian Kehl occupying his usual position alongside Nuri Sahin. Injuries have left Klopp with few options, with neither Manuel Friedrich nor Marian Sarr having inspired very much confidence during the first half of the campaign.
Left-Back: Marcel Schmelzer
Erik Durm could one day displace Marcel Schmelzer in the Dortmund starting XI, but for now the left-back position belongs to the more experienced Germany international. After sustaining two muscular injuries in the first half of the campaign, Schmelzer is fit again and prepared following the mid-season training camp.
Defensive Midfield: Sebastian Kehl
Even as he approaches his 34th birthday, Sebastian Kehl remains a useful and reliable figure in the Dortmund team. He isn't a starter when all players are fit, but in the current situation it seems likely that Kehl will start for BVB, provided Bender is used in defense. It's a tactic that Klopp has tried before and one that he more likely than not will try again until Mats Hummels is match fit once again.
Defensive Midfield: Nuri Sahin
Increasingly impatient Dortmund fans will have to wait a bit longer for Ilkay Gundogan to make his return to the starting lineup: Klopp told reporters in a recent press conference that the 23-year-old will not be rushed back into action. The good news for BVB is that they have a more-than-capable backup in Nuri Sahin, who was one of the club's stand-out performers in the fall. He'll start alongside Kehl in deep midfield.
Right Wing: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Throughout the fall campaign, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Jakub Blaszczykowski competed for a permanent starting role on the right wing. Generally speaking, the former played against defensive teams; the latter against more difficult and attacking opponents. Given that Augsburg will likely play defensively against Dortmund and considering the Gabon-born attacker's impressive form during this month's friendlies, Aubameyang is the more likely starter.
Center-Attacking Midfield: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
In a recent interview with Kicker (English translation here), Henrikh Mkhitaryan recently admitted that his performance in the first half of the season was sub-satisfactory. But Armenia's reigning Player of the Year nonetheless is likely to start against Augsburg. He remains Dortmund's only fit natural central playmaker and will be keen to make his impression felt early in the second round.
Left Wing: Marco Reus
Marco Reus' form waned towards the end of the first half of the season as he grew visibly tired. But following the winter break, the 24-year-old is recharged and ready for the challenges that stand ahead. Reus has been a decisive figure for Dortmund, scoring key openers time and time again. If BVB desperately need a goal, look for Reus to be the man to put the ball over the line.
Center-Forward: Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski confirmed his summer departure to Bayern this January, but the prolific striker still has half a season left at Dortmund before he packs his bags. The Poland international has pledged "to give [his] all" for BVB between now and the end of the season. The joint-top scorer in the Bundesliga, watch out for Lewandowski as BVB aim to start 2014 on a good note.
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