Dortmund go into this midweek fixture having not lost since the end of the Hinrunde, winning 8 games and drawing one. This suggests good form, but lot of these results haven't come with strong performances that fans would have liked to see.
In the reverse fixture in the first half of the season, Darmstadt score an early goal, and sat back trying to defend their lead. Dortmund didn't play well for most of the game, but were able to take a lead thanks to two goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. In the end, Dortmund conceded a free kick and the ball fell to Aytac Sulu who nailed it home to equalize for the visitors.
Nuri Sahin likened this fixture to a common English saying "a cold Tuesday night in Stoke". For those who aren't familiar, he means that going away to Darmstadt on a cold midweek night isn't an easy task. And his comparison makes a lot of sense. Darmstadt have already proved a pesky team to us, and the rest of the league as well, playing very defensively, but also able to score goals through Sandro Wagner and Aytac Sulu. They've managed to remain in midtable for most of the season, and causing problems for teams while having the least amount of resources and talent in the league. The team tends to play a little dirty by diving, fouling, and playing lots of long balls.
Nuri Sahin: “There’s a saying in England: “Rainy Tuesday in Stoke”. You didn’t enjoy going there. Darmstadt might be our Stoke City.” #BVB— Sandra Goldschmidt (@SanBorussia) March 1, 2016
Thomas Tuchel might opt to rest a few players for this game in preparation for the Bayern and Spurs matches, but he probably realizes that this week could have a big effect on the title "race". It's naive to believe that Dortmund are still in it, but if they do beat Darmstadt and Bayern, then they at least have a shot. However, Tuchel has shown that he's prioritizing the Europa League, as we have second place all but locked up in the league, so it's possible that some players might not be risked against a Darmstadt team that are a little nippy.
Ilk Gundogan will likely get the start after being rested in the first half of the Hoffenheim game due to illness, and we'll have Mats Hummels back after he missed the Hoffenheim game with a hip flexor injury. Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan will almost certainly be involved, but it wouldn't surprise me if we saw Gonzalo Castro make his return to the starting line-up. Tuchel also may opt for fringe players like Matthias Ginter, Erik Durm, or Mortiz Leitner to play a part in the match as well.
One positive sign for Dortmund is Darmstadt's abysmal home record. They have only acquired seven of their 25 points on the season at home, and captain Aytac Sulu has scored all of his goals for the club on the road this season. However, their stadium is very small and the pitch isn't the best, which means we could see Marco Reus left out of this one as he's always prone to an ankle injury.
If Tuchel can get Dortmund properly motivated for this tricky game, then he'll have no problem inspiring the troops for the Bayern game. Bayern don't drop nearly enough points for a title race to be back on, but some good form ahead of our Europa League clash with Tottenham could go a long way to improving our chances. This Darmstadt game will most likely not be a fun one, but one that Dortmund will be expecting to win.