Five questions for the Bundesliga's return: Can Dortmund get their groove on?

Joe Brewin picks out the big talking points as beer drinking, bratwurst munching and fußball frolicking resume in Germany...

Can Klopp's troops recover after their harsh winter?

It's not just Robert Lewandowski's summer move to Bayern Munich which has caused discomfort at Borussia Dortmund this season - after all, the Pole's move to Big Bad Bayern was hardly unknown before the inevitable announcement earlier this month. Jürgen Klopp has the best part of six months to decide who will truly replace his main man (sigh, not you, Ji Dong-Won),  but in the meantime there's plenty on his plate with league, DFB-Pokal and Champions League campaigns to manoeuvre. 

A glance at the form table before the winter break makes for grim reading. In the six games before Christmas Dortmund posted the Bundesliga's worst run of form, with only goal difference separating them from relegation-bound Eintracht Braunschweig and winless Nürnberg. Of course, anyone following Klopp's men this season will know exactly why; injuries to Neven Subotic, Mats Hummels and Marcel Schmelzer left them without three of their first-choice back four, Lukasz Piszczek was only just returning from a lengthy spell on the sidelines, while Ilkay Gündogan hasn't played since August. Lewandowski's announcement was just the icing on the cake. 

But fast-forward a month and the situation looks brighter. Schmelzer and Piszczek are back to full fitness, Hummels is back in training and Gündogan looks set for a return within the month. Kevin Grosskreutz's last-gasp winner against Marseille in the Champions League means there's a winnable tie against Zenit St. Petersburg to look forward to in the last 16. Next month they'll face struggling Eintracht Frankfurt in the DFB-Pokal quarter-finals.

First it's plucky Augsburg at Signal Iduna Park this weekend, meanwhile, and the perfect opportunity for Klopp & Co. to get their season back on track. Sure, they're 12 points behind Bayern having played a game more, but there's still plenty at stake with points to prove. 

Is now as good as time as any to face Bayern?

OK, so there's never an ideal time to face the world's greatest side (that's official and everything), but after over a month without competitive action and a 3-0 friendly defeat to RB Salzburg for Bayern to mull over, there have been worse.

Pep Guardiola probably won't be playing a back three again anytime soon after seeing his team swept away by the Austrians on Saturday. "I made some tactical changes because we wanted to have one more player in the midfield," said the Spaniard, reasonably enough. But he probably won't care too much either if his league leaders return to Bundesliga action with victory over high-flying Borussia Mönchengladbach on Friday night. 

It won't be easy, though - Bastian Schweinsteiger is out, Philipp Lahm and Arjen Robben only returned to training on Wednesday, while Franck Ribery, smarting from Ballon d'Or rejection, was reduced to lap-running in midweek training. Couple that with some annoying transfer speculation around Dante, and Gladbach may feel like they have a chance under the Borussia Park lights. After all, they're third in the table having dropped just two points at home all season.

If you believe the papers there could be another troubled soul in attendance: Manchester United chief David Moyes, who'll reportedly be watching young winger Patrick Herrmann and Germany international Max Kruse in action for the hosts. Just another reason for the duo to up their games - or not, if they don't fancy Old Trafford...

Are Hannover the world's worst away team?

The answer is probably yes. It was a contributing factor to Mirko Slomka's departure just two days after Christmas, and needs rectifying quickly if die Roten are to scale Europa League heights again in the near future. They're not in immediate danger of facing the drop, but their new manager - German-born former Turkey international Tayfun Korkut - has a sizeable task ahead restoring pride to the outrageously poor travellers.

They've lost each of their eight away games this season (most recently at drop-dodging Freiburg) - but that's just the beginning. In the last two seasons, Hannover haven't picked up a single point away to the Bundesliga's top-half finishers. It really is that bad. 

Can Hertha pick up where they left off?

Victory at Borussia Dortmund in their final game before the winter break made it three in a row for Jos Luhukay's promoted side, who won last season's 2.Bundesliga at a canter.

So far their top-flight return, after just a season's absence, has proved relatively straightforward. Sixth in the table behind the likely lads, and level on points with Schalke, is nothing to grumble at. Indeed, the capital side haven't even lamented letting Pierre-Michel Lasogga out on loan, despite the young striker's nine goals for Hamburg so far this season. 

But why would you when you've got Adrian Ramos? After Hertha were squeezed out by Bayern at the Allianz Arena in November, Luhukay had no hesitation in calling his 28-year-old Colombia international "the complete striker". Ramos' 11 goals are matched only by Lewandowski so far this season. With a World Cup on the horizon, and the likes of Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez for competition, Hertha's main man has hit form at the right time. 

Thanks to the Colombian's goals and a sturdy backline which has leaked only 20 goals in 17 games (no mean feat in the goal-infested Bundesliga), Hertha can look forward to the season's second half looking up, not down. This weekend they travel to Armin Veh's troubled Eintracht Frankfurt side who are flirting with relegation and, incredibly, still yet to win at home this season. How times change - at this stage last term they were fourth. 

Will Nürnberg finally win a football match?

It's 17 games and counting for the Bavarians. Yet they're still being kept off the bottom by poor Braunschweig, thanks to their league-high 11 draws that amount to the Bundesliga's top five teams combined.

Such is the forgiving nature at the bottom of Germany's top flight, however, that survival is still a viable conclusion for Gertjan Verbeek's men. For starters they're only three points behind Freiburg in the relegation play-off spot, and four behind Eintracht Frankfurt in safety. With half a season remaining and three wins in friendly matches over the winter break (including a 5-1 trouncing of Steaua Bucharest), it's surely only a matter of time before their dreary drought ends. 

A fortnight before Christmas they held a 3-1 lead over Hannover with only three minutes remaining, before Mame Diouf's late brace broke burgundy hearts. No side has hit the woodwork more often. 

But just try calling this weekend's home game against Hoffenheim, who have failed to score on just two occasions this season, and whose games boast a league-high average of 4.35 goals. Nürnburg could do with lots more of them, and quickly.  


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