Borussia Dortmund visit Hertha BSC on Saturday in the final round of the 2013-14 Bundesliga season. Both sides apparently have little to play for apart from pride, with BVB certain to finish a distant second in the table regardless of their result and Hertha (currently 10th) assured of mid-table anonymity in the rank of ninth to 12th position.
Still, there will be some impetus for both sides to try to take the three points. BVB have generally been in very good form in recent weeks and will aim to carry their momentum to Berlin, where they will face a tough challenge in the form of Bayern Munich in the DFB-Pokal final just a week later.
For Hertha, Saturday will mark Adrian Ramos' last game in Berlin before moving to Dortmund in the summer. He'll aim to put at least a couple of goals past his future club, especially with him currently standing just two strikes behind joint Bundesliga scoring leaders Robert Lewandowski and Mario Mandzukic.
Jurgen Klopp may have some tricks up his sleeve ahead of the final matchday, but here's the most likely starting XI for BVB as they prepare to take on Hertha:
Goalkeeper: Roman Weidenfeller
If there's one full-time starter in the Dortmund team who might be rested on matchday 34, it's Roman Weidenfeller. The veteran has rarely had a break in a very nerve-wracking season and still has the World Cup to look forward to. But in all likelihood, the 33-year-old will start on Saturday, so as not to break up his concentration ahead of the Pokal final.
Right-Back: Lukasz Piszczek
Since missing the first half of the season following multiple surgeries, Lukasz Piszczek has come back to form. The Poland international is Klopp's first choice on the right of defense, especially when he needs to use his competition, Kevin Grosskreutz, as a defensive winger.
Center-Back: Sokratis Papastathopoulos
Although Saturday would be a good opportunity for Manuel Friedrich to be given one last run-out, last week's farewell in front of the Dortmund fans will likely be his last appearance for the club. Sokratis Papastathopoulos has been a rock in defense for BVB all season long, and Klopp will be keen to ensure that he and Mats Hummels have their chemistry right ahead of the Pokal final.
Center-Back: Mats Hummels
Dortmund are always stronger in defense when Mats Hummels plays; the 25-year-old center-back plays a key leadership role in the BVB defense and may well be named captain when Sebastian Kehl and Roman Weidenfeller retire.
Left-Back: Marcel Schmelzer
Even though teammate Erik Durm was also included in Joachim Low's provisional World Cup squad, Klopp is likely to prefer longstanding BVB starter Marcel Schmelzer on the left of his defense to face Hertha. The 26-year-old is more experienced and more positionally aware as a defensive player than is Durm. And as he has only recently returned from injury, he will need match practice before the Pokal final.
Defensive Midfield: Milos Jojic
With Sven Bender still recovering from an injury that looks likely to keep him out of the DFB-Pokal final, Milos Jojic is most likely to start in defensive midfield. Sebastian Kehl has proven a bit lacking in skill and pace in some of BVB's bigger games, while Jojic has been outstanding; his performance against Real Madrid was simply outstanding and won him Klopp's favor. With the Pokal final looming on the horizon, Saturday offers Klopp a chance to use Jojic and Nuri Sahin together to practice their partnership.
Defensive Midfield: Nuri Sahin
The most consistent member of Dortmund's midfield this season, Nuri Sahin has stepped up in a big way in his return to his hometown club. The injury-induced absence of Ilkay Gundogan might have destroyed BVB if not for Sahin, but the Turkey international's consistently high level of play ensured a respectable points tally in the Bundesliga and progression to the latter stages of the Champions League and DFB-Pokal. He should play on Saturday as Klopp aims to keep his key players in form ahead of the Pokal final.
Right Wing: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was signed to take over for Mario Gotze as Dortmund's playmaker, but the Armenia international has in the latter stages of the season been moved to play on the wing and cut inside when counterattacking. The switch has worked like a charm for him and especially for Marco Reus, and the two have great chemistry together. Mkhitaryan should start assuming Klopp intends to use his best available lineup.
Attacking Midfield: Marco Reus
Marco Reus has been used exclusively in a central position over the last month or so, and he has thrived. He's averaged an assist and just under a goal per game in that position, and his form is truly phenomenal. He's directly contributed to more goals than games in which he's played, and he has scored nine goals and given seven assists in his last eight fixtures in all competitions. Klopp would be crazy to break up his rhythm at this point.
Left Wing: Kevin Grosskreutz
Although often used in defense this season, Kevin Grosskreutz is more likely to play in midfield on Saturday as BVB prepare for the Pokal final. The versatile wide player will likely be used for his defensive qualities in midfield against Bayern, and Saturday will be a good warm-up.
Center Forward: Robert Lewandowski
A teary-eyed Robert Lewandowski bid farewell to the Dortmund faithful last week in what was his last home game at the Signal-Iduna Park before his summer move to Bayern Munich. He now has two games left as a BVB player, and he will surely be motivated to put his best foot forward as he aims to hold off competition from Mario Mandzukic and finish top scorer in the Bundesliga.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!