Borussia Dortmund captain Mats Hummels says Nuri Sahin's return from long-term injury will aid the finale to their Bundesliga season, starting with Sunday's clash against Bayer Leverkusen.
Sahin made his first appearance in almost a year during Dortmund's 2-0 win over Porto in the Europa League on Thursday following long-term knee troubles and lasted 58 minutes as Thomas Tuchel's men claimed a first-leg advantage in the last-32 tie.
Sunday's clash at the BayArena will likely govern who finishes second behind runaway leaders Bayern Munich, although third-placed Leverkusen have failed to win any of their last eight Bundesliga home games against Dortmund.
The eight-point gap from Dortmund in second to Bayern will likely prove too big to bridge, but Hummels believes Sahin has enthused his team-mates ahead of the run-in.
"It's no secret that we were all thrilled for [Sahin]. He's an outstanding player. Anyone who saw him in training in recent weeks knew he was ready," Hummels told the Bundesliga website.
"It was just a matter of time until he got back on the pitch. He'd got better by the day in training and earned his place in the team. And for us it's just great, looking to the Bundesliga, that we have another option.
"Leverkusen are playing a good Ruckrunde. We know what to expect, but Bayer had to play away in Lisbon in the Europa League.
"If there's a possibility of them being more tired than us, then we'll definitely try to take advantage of it on Sunday."
Leverkusen also enjoyed a positive result against Portuguese opposition, claiming a hard-fought 1-0 win against 10-man Sporting CP.
A 14-point haul from their last six Bundesliga games has seen Leverkusen overhaul surprise high-flyers Hertha Berlin and Roger Schmidt could have leading scorer Javier Hernandez back fit after sustaining a minor muscle tear this month.
Lars Bender (ankle) is unavailable, while brother Sven (foot) is doubtful for Dortmund, with Schmidt eager to talk up the impact of Thursday's European success.
"Each victory gives us confidence, especially winning away in Europe against a very strong opponent as we have done," said the Leverkusen boss.
"Of course this is a very good sign. Now we begin the countdown towards Sunday afternoon, we must look to recover as quickly as possible."
While Sven Bender is doubtful for Dortmund, Tuchel may also be without Roman Weidenfeller and Ilkay Gundogan after the pair missed the Porto game and Friday's training due to flu.
Key Opta stats:
- Leverkusen are unbeaten in six Bundesliga matches – their longest run of the campaign.
- Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been directly involved in 17 goals in 20 Bundesliga outings this season. Last season he had a hand in just seven from 28 league appearances.
- Stefan Kiessling has scored seven Bundesliga goals against BVB from 19 appearances in a Leverkusen shirt. Only Ulf Kirsten can better his tally with eight in 22.
- Dortmund have the best tally for a second-placed side in the history of the Bundesliga after 21 games with 48 points.
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