While the Bundesliga winter break is still ongoing, Borussia Dortmund's staff and players reported for duty this week. With the return to training, 2016 has officially begun for the club.
The year is shaping up to be very interesting for the Black and Yellows, although they'll hope it won't come close to the rollercoaster ride that was 2015.
Still in contention for both the DFB-Pokal and the UEFA Europa League, Thomas Tuchel's side have a lot to play for in the second half of the 2015/16 season.
Many players will then fight for glory with their national teams at UEFA Euro 2016 in France, while the summer transfer window also looms large for the club.
There are a lot of ways the calendar year could turn out for the club, and below you will find three predictions for what might happen.
Dortmund Won't Win Silverware This Season
Eight points behind leaders Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, any sort of title race many fans—both the Black and Yellows and neutral spectators—might have hoped for is virtually over.
Since Bayern stand in the way of BVB in the cup as well, fans shouldn't expect Dortmund to hoist the trophy in Berlin come May—their defeat against Munich in the league was too emphatic (5-1) for that.
If anything, it looks like the Europa League might be the competition Dortmund could win in 2016. In formulating a new year's resolution for head coach Tuchel, we urged him to focus on Europe.
But, even if he does, and despite the fact that the Black and Yellows are the bookmakers' favourites (via Oddschecker.com), Dortmund won't win the Europa League. There are too many variables that'll have to fall in place for that to happen.
A lengthy injury to a key player—be it Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Ilkay Gundogan—could derail their European campaign. So, too, could their defence, whose frailties Dustin Ward highlighted for Statsbomb.com:
Dortmund allow the second-closest average shot in the league. This has helped opponents get a higher percentage of shots on target against Dortmund than any other team in the league at 46 percent. That has added up to 23 goals allowed already. Last year Dortmund suffered through a similar phenomenon where they generally stifled opponents but the rare successful attacks were of extremely high value. The fact this trend has continued with an improved goalie is worrying and is what is keeping them from seriously challenging Bayern and joining the very top of European clubs.
Dortmund Will Lose a Star in the Summer
As we pointed out in our look at the highs and lows of 2015, Dortmund managed to hold onto all their key players for the first time since 2011. They had lost Nuri Sahin to Real Madrid, Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United and Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski to Bayern Munich in consecutive years before 2015.
It's likely last year will prove to be an outlier, and that the Black and Yellows will lose a star player in the summer transfer window. There are some obvious candidates in Mkhitaryan, Gundogan or club captain Mats Hummels, all of whom have contracts expiring in 2017.
Since goals rule the football world, Aubameyang will probably be the player most rumours will circle around—that has already started, per Justin Allen of the Sun—but with the Gabonese inking a new deal until 2020 in July last year, Dortmund fans have little to worry about.
The same can't be said about Gundogan, however. The 25-year-old was set to leave the club, with Dortmund putting out a statement on Facebook saying they'd "part company with midfielder Ilkay Gundogan by 30 June 2016 at the latest" in April, but ended up renewing his contract.
Reports suggest the Germany international could be a target for Pep Guardiola if the Spaniard—as widely expected—takes the job at Manchester City.
Bundesliga Spotlight @BundesligaSpot
BILD: Pep Guardiola would like Dortmund's Ilkay Gündogan to be one of his first signings when he becomes Man City boss. #BVB #FCBayern #MCFC12/30/2015, 12:52:11 PM
Dortmund Will Top the Table at the End of 2016
This isn't that bold a prediction, considering B/R's Clark Whitney predicted Bayern won't lead the league at the midseason break of the 2016/17 season.
For all the accolades incoming Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti has accumulated over the years, his domestic record is surprisingly poor. ESPN FC's Miguel Delaney wrote on the subject:
Despite spending 18 consecutive years at the continent's wealthiest clubs, Ancelotti only has three domestic medals. In Italy, he was often described rather disparagingly as a "perpetual runner-up", but that is only half the story. In half of those 18 years, he has actually finished third or lower in the league. It is barely even a 'good' record given the clubs he's been at, who should always expect to be at least competing.
While some of his problems won't come in effect because of the fact that Bayern are so far ahead of everyone else in the Bundesliga, Dortmund could be strong enough to take advantage of the coaching change—especially with the Euros cutting the summer short in terms of preparation time for the season.
Tell us what you think 2016 holds in store for Dortmund in the comments below.
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