Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel is determined to end the first half of the season on a high note when they travel to Cologne on Saturday.
Dortmund sit second in the Bundesliga table heading into this weekend’s encounter after a number of impressive performances in their first season under Tuchel.
The former Mainz coach saw his team lose to Hamburg and Bayern Munich, but they have won 12 out of 16 matches so far and trail reigning champions Bayern Munich by five points.
“There is definitely a good feeling about our season so far. We are putting in good performances on a regular basis. The team has been showing character. We are focused and are on the right track,” Tuchel told Ruhr Nachrichten.
“But there is still one game to go. I will review the first half of the season after that game. It does not feel right to review things when there is still a game to play. That is like sitting back and relaxing after 70 minutes of play because you think things cannot go wrong any more.
“Although a defeat in Cologne would not have a huge impact on how I feel about our performances so far. We are not taking things for granted. We want to build on our fine performances so far against Koln.”
Dortmund are expected to be without Marco Reus (adductor injury), Erik Durm (nee) and Nuri Sahin (knee) once again.
Top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be looking to find the net against Cologne for the first time in his career. The Gabon international has scored against 16 of the current 18 Bundesliga sides – with Saturday’s opponents the only side other than Dortmund he has not been on target against.
Cologne have lost their way in recent weeks in what has otherwise been an encouraging first half of the campaign.
Peter Stoger’s men sit 10th in the Bundesliga table, but have failed to win since their 2-1 victory over rivals Bayer Leverkusen at the start of last month – drawing three times since and losing to Augsburg.
Cologne will take heart from the fact that they beat Dortmund 2-1 at home last season after holding them to a goalless draw at Signal Iduna Park.
Stoger will be hoping Anthony Modeste will be able to replicate the form that saw him shine in the opening weeks of the season on Saturday.
The attacker was directly involved in eight goals in the first eight matches – with six goals and two assists – but is without a goal in his last nine games.
Key Opta stats:
– Cologne’s heaviest home Bundesliga defeat came at the hands of Dortmund (6-1 in 2012 and 1994).
– Dortmund have netted 46 goals this term – they have only scored more times after 16 games on one occasion (49, in 1963/64). Dortmund managed just 47 goals in the whole of last season.
– Cologne have drawn 15 league games in 2015 – five more than any other side. Four of their last six fixtures have seen the points shared.
– Dortmund midfielder Gonzalo Castro is set to make his 300th Bundesliga appearance and could also celebrate his 150th top-flight victory this weekend. Only seven current players have reached this milestone.
– Cologne goalkeeper Timo Horn (78.7 per cent shots stopped) is statistically the best shot stopper in the league; Dortmund’s Roman Burki is the weakest (61.8 per cent)
– Aubameyang has bagged more goals this term (18) than the whole of Stoger’s team combined (16).