Borussia Dortmund visit Werder Bremen on Saturday as they look to narrow what now is a four-point gap to second-placed Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga table.
After being held to a draw against Augsburg, BVB beat Braunschweig 2-1 last week in their second competitive match of 2014. Now they take on the currently struggling but historic Bremen, who are now 12th in the German league table.
Jurgen Klopp's side edged Werder 1-0 in August, with Robert Lewandowski scoring the only goal of what was a close match. Especially as they aim to steer clear of the relegation zone, Bremen will be keen to take points against BVB.
Here's a look at Klopp's most probable starting lineup to take on Bremen:
Goalkeeper: Roman Weidenfeller
With Sebastian Kehl likely to start from the bench, Dortmund will in all likelihood be captained by Roman Weidenfeller. The 33-year-old has missed just nine Bundesliga games since 2010 and his leadership has been critical to the development of BVB's defense during Klopp's tenure.
Right-Back: Kevin Grosskreutz
Although Lukasz Piszczek is fit to play after missing the first half of the season, Kevin Grosskreutz has started both of BVB's fixtures to start the second half of the campaign. The Dortmund native has adapted well in his change from an attacking winger to a defensive player; it seems the right-back position currently is his to lose.
Center-Back: Sokratis Papastathopoulos
Although he was substituted following a knock to his foot in a Tuesday friendly with Fortuna Dusseldorf, Sokratis Papasthathopoulos is expected to be fit to face Bremen on Saturday. Kicker reporter Thomas Hennecke reported via his Twitter account that the center-back's injury was not at all serious and that there was "no danger" of his use against Bremen. This is good news for BVB, as the Greece international is having a strong season and has been vital in the absence of long-term casualty Neven Subotic.
Center-Back: Sven Bender
With Mats Hummels having picked up a foot injury in Tuesday’s friendly with Fortuna Dusseldorf that will see him sidelined for two weeks, Klopp is forced to try an alternative at center-back. Sven Bender played in the Germany international’s stead in Matchday 18, and appears to be set for another start alongside Sokratis following Hummels' injury.
Left-Back: Marcel Schmelzer
In spite of competition from Erik Durm, Marcel Schmelzer has started both of Dortmund's games to start the 2014 calendar year. The Germany international has been in good form and even scored in a Tuesday friendly against Fortuna Dusseldorf; as with Grosskreutz on the opposite flank, the left-back position is Schmelzer's to lose.
Defensive Midfield: Sebastian Kehl
Assuming Bender is indeed used in defense, Klopp's only option to replace him in defensive midfield is Sebastian Kehl. The captain will turn 34 next week but despite his age has performed well this season when called upon. There will be substantial pressure on Kehl to shield BVB's makeshift defense.
Defensive Midfield: Nuri Sahin
With the date of Ilkay Gundogan's return still in question, Nuri Sahin will start yet again in the Dortmund midfield. A substitute at the beginning of the season, the 25-year-old has started in 26 games for BVB in 2013-14; his performances have surely earned him a long-term future at the Signal-Iduna Park.
Right Wing: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
With Jakub Blaszczykowski out for the season with cruciate ligament damage, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is likely to start every game for BVB when healthy. The Gabon-born forward has scored 11 Bundesliga goals this season, as many as Robert Lewandowski, including a brace in Braunschweig last week. Especially as Klopp appraises him as a possible long-term successor to Lewandowski, Aubameyang will be one to watch.
Center-Attacking Midfield: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has struggled for consistency since moving to Dortmund last summer and, following last week's signing of Milos Jojic, finally has some competition for his role as starting playmaker. Jojic only recently began training with BVB, however, and in all likelihood will not start. But should Mkhitaryan struggle against Bremen, he may be withdrawn early for the young Serb.
Left Wing: Marco Reus
As always, Marco Reus will bear the burden of being Dortmund's spark of creativity on Saturday. The 24-year-old has since Mario Gotze's departure carried a huge responsibility, and his form has often decided BVB's fortune or lack thereof. Reus was on target twice in Tuesday's friendly with Dusseldorf, so it can be assumed that the Germany international is ready for the challenge that awaits in Bremen.
Center-Forward: Robert Lewandowski
Although Aubameyang is now Dortmund's joint-top scorer, Robert Lewandowski's starting role is not in the least bit endangered. As he enters the last few months of his tenure at the Signal-Iduna Park, great things are expected from the Bayern-bound Poland international.
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