It's been quite a positive week for Borussia Dortmund. First, a resounding Bundesliga win over Borussia Mönchengladbach was just what the doctor ordered, followed up by an impressive comeback to secure top spot in the Champions League Group F.
However, Dortmund's league position is still lackluster, despite winning three of their last four. The trip to Cologne this Saturday will be no easy task, as Dortmund have yet to get the better of the Billygoats since their most recent promotion to the Bundesliga in 2014.
Cologne manager Peter Stoger has built his team around defensive stability over the past few seasons, and even he couldn't have expected to develop an elite goalscorer in striker Anthony Modeste. The French striker has netted 27 goals in the league since joining 'Effzeh' at the start of the 2015 season. He'll want to keep up with his opponent Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the title of league's leading scorer. Modeste is just three behind Aubameyang, which highlights how prolific has been this season.
Modesto's brilliance is certainly a large part of why Cologne sit 7th in the league, an impressive position for a team that has typically finished mid table or worse over the past decade. Even losing key midfielders this summer, such as Kevin Vogt and Yannick Gerhardt, Cologne has coped very well. But a huge credit has to go to their defense. With no standout elite defenders, Peter Stoger's 4-4-2 system has provided incredible defensive stability, only conceding twelve goals in the league thus far.
Cologne will be without former Borussia Dortmund midfielder Leonardo Bittencourt, who tore ligaments in his ankle, and Marcel Risse, who just recently tore knee ligaments.
On the black and yellow side of things, Mario Götze, Nuri Sahin, and Raphael Guerreiro will miss out on top of the long term injured Sven Bender and Roman Bürki. With Götze and Geurreiro still out, Gonzalo Castro will likely be called upon again in a deeper role. He seems to struggle playing more as an 8 than a 10, but with Sebastian Rode the only other option, there's not much of a choice here for Tuchel.
Marco Reus was not 100% on Wednesday due to the flu and his recent return from injury, but should be fit enough to play a part this Saturday. If Reus is good to go, it's probably worth putting him out there, considering Andre Schürrle's disappointing form. Reus has proved more than able to combine with the young Ousmane Dembele, and along with best friend Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, they form quite a speedy and effective attack. Sorry guys, the Götze-Reus bromance will have to wait.
Thomas Tuchel said in his press conference that Sokratis and Marcel Schmelzer both picked up bruises in the draw against Real Madrid, but should be good to go for Saturday. With Tuchel opting against the back three against Real Madrid, it seems unlikely that he will use it against Cologne. Dortmund seem to be much more stable with three at the back and the wing backs have given extra space for the front three, but Tuchel could be hesitant to use it due to it's emphasis on Matthias Ginter and Marc Bartra, who, frankly, have been less than impressive.
Dortmund once again will be looking to get three points here, as they can't afford to fall too much further behind the leaders if they want to finish in third place.
Predicted Line-Up: Weidenfeller, Piszczek, Sokratis, Bartra, Schmelzer, Weigl, Castro, Dembele, Kagawa, Reus, Aubameyang