Marco Reus is back for Dortmund and looks to extend his injury-free streak to two tomorrow against Atalanta Bergamo, a team known amongst other things for having a name similar to a Southeastern American metropolis and for being from one of the richest parts of Italy. Dortmund are coming off a 2-0 win against Hamburg in which they looked convincing for approximately 30 combined seconds, when Michy Batshuayi knocked in a Pulisic screamer and Mario Gotze jumped into the lion’s den, pulled off a beautiful flick, and came out unscathed.
Atalanta, for their part, are sitting 8th in the Serie A standings, making them a sort of Italian Hoffenheim or Gladbach. They’re currently riding a three-game win streak, but friends, I’m going to be honest, aside from knowing this team exists and that their name confounds my spellchecker, my knowledge of this Italian middle-(bantam?) weight is woefully limited. Apparently they have a lot of players on loan. One thing’s for certain, the team from Northern Italy will be eager to show they can perform on one of the biggest stages in Europe.
Trainer Peter Stoger recently received praise from Hans-Joachim Watzke for his “winning ways,” again begging the question: Have Stoger and Dortmund really been all that good, or have the other teams just been bad? After all, Dortmund got off to quite the fantastic start this year under a man named Peter Bajszh (sp?), and then got absolutely trounced once they started playing decent sides. The lifeless first half performance against Hamburg had fans asking the same question they’ve been asking since September: Can Dortmund perform against quality teams? Lamentably, the answer seems to be a resounding “no.” And given Atalanta’s mediocre standing, even a win from Dortmund won’t provide conclusive results.
A few other talking points:
- Will Marco Reus start again or will Peter Stoger try to ease him back into competition? He played 71 minutes against Hamburg but two consecutive starts might be overkill for the fresh-faced winger.
- One undeniable achievement under Stoger has been the revival of Andre Schurrle. Schurrle looked dastardly under Peter Bosz — slow, unconfident, confused, timid — but Stoger seems to have renewed his long-lost confidence.
- Will Andrey Yarmolenko ever play again? Now that Reus is back, Schurrle is getting more playing time, and Batman is killing it up top, will Yarmolenko be allowed to set foot on the pitch?
These two teams have never met in a competitive match, though Atalanta beat Dortmund 1-0 in a pre-season friendly. It will be a hard-fought battle, though not that hard since Dortmund hasn’t fought hard since September and Atalanta plain isn’t that good. Dortmund 1 - 1 Atalanta.