It's only been about a month without any Bundesliga football, but it feels like a lifetime. Since German football is simple and uncomplicated, Dortmund face the same teams in the same order as they did in the Hinrunde, just at the opposite location. This means die Schwarzgelbe get to kick off the Ruckrunde with a trip to face the hottest team in German football before the Winterpause, Borussia Monchengladbach.
Fortunately for Dortmund, the Winterpause takes form out of the equation in the first match back, as both teams will likely look a little rusty after not playing a truly competitive match for over a month. This could lean in Dortmund's favor, as they'll be lucky to face a Gladbach team that is not as blazing hot as they were before the break. Since Andre Schubert took over after the fifth match day of the season, Gladbach has lost one, drawn two, and won every other game of the 12 league games he's managed.
Schubert's appointment, at first, was just meant to be an interim one, but it's kind of hard to replace someone when they win six league games in a row and go on to be the only team to defeat Bayern so far this season, in what was their most impressive performance of the season. Gladbach did come back down to Earth after that game, getting drubbed 5-0 at Leverkusen. It was nice to see them finally lose, because I was getting afraid that Dortmund were about to face an undefeated Andre Schubert on the road.
One notable player who has made strides since Schubert's arrival is an American, Fabian Johnson. He's scored four goals and assisted one in the league so far this season, but he was electric in the last few games of the Ruckrunde for Gladbach. It hasn't just been Johnson, however, as Raffael and Lars Stindl have all been in great form ever since Schubert took over. Along with catching Gladbach right after the Winterpause, another advantage Dortmund have is the suspension of midfield playmaker Granit Xhaka, who picked up a red card in the final match of the Hinrunde.
While we're unsure whether we'll see our old friend Jonas Hofmann start for the Foals, we can probably expect to see him on the pitch at some point. With Xhaka's suspension, it's likely that they'll play a midfield base of Havard Nordtveit, Marco Reus' old friend, and Mahmoud Dahoud, a young Syrian (yes, Syrian) mega-talent. In defense, Gladbach will likely start new signing Martin Hinteregger along with Andreas Christensen. The Foals are horrifically thin on defense, with Martin Strangle always injured, Tony Jantschke out for the season, and Nico Schulz injured, forcing them to bring in Hinteregger on loan from RB Salzburg.
As for Dortmund, we are a bit more fortunate. Schmelzer and Bender are both unavailable, making it likely that we'll see Park Joo-Ho and Sokratis start in their places.
Dortmund are going to watch to start off the Ruckrunde in the same fashion they started off the Hinrunde, but it'll be interesting to see how the team sets up this time around. At the end of the Hinrunde, Gonzalo Castro was getting a few more starts than Shinji Kagawa was. Kagawa was a very effective supersub, more so than Castro, but he had no real reason to be demoted to Dortmund's "sixth man" as they'd say in basketball.
Former Gladbach man Marco Reus has returned to full fitness after a small groin ailment kept him out at the end of the Hinrunde. It'd be great to see Marco have an extended run of fitness that will allow him to rediscover his world class form, as he'll play a key role in the second half of our season. Gladbach have only kept four clean sheets under Schubert this season, so goals shouldn't be too hard to come by for Dortmund in this game. Their leaky defense conceded four against us the last time we faced them, making us look potent in every attack.
An interesting battle for the right back position took place over the winter training camp in Dubai, with the result being, according to RN, Lukasz Piszczek earning his right back spot back from Ginter, who could feature as more as a defensive midfielder for the rest of the season. We'll see how this turns out, but it seems a little harsh on Ginter as he played superbly for us at right back.
It's hard to say what to expect from this game, as both teams are coming off a month long break. Form is gone, so the Hinrunde results shouldn't tell us much, leaving us to guess which team will come out on top. Dortmund have struggled at Gladbach in recent years, and haven't won there since the 2009-2010 season. Hopefully Dortmund can turn that stat around, and start the second half off in proper fashion.
Gladbach: Sommer, Korb, Christensen, Stranzl, Wendt, Johnson, Dahoud, Nordtveit, Hofmann, Stindl, Raffael
Dortmund: Burki, Piszczek, Sokratis, Hummels, Park, Weigl, Gundogan, Reus, Kagawa, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang