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Bundesliga preview: It's now or never for Dortmund

Dortmund will host Cologne on Saturday in what will be a crucial litmus test for BVB. The men in yellow and black will be wanting to get momentum going ahead of the Champions League.

Every superlative imaginable has been used to describe Borussia Dortmund’s up and down season so far. The first half was poor by its standards in every sense, but since the turn of the year the men in yellow have been electrifying. Every game has been classed as a must-win for BVB, and that will continue on Saturday with the visit of Cologne

"Form is temporary, class is permanent" is a common phrase in football. Dortmund’s form seemed to stretch the meaning of “temporary” before the winter break, and the proof of its class will be measured by how it ends this vastly improving season. With 30 points still to play for as the season enters its final ten games, BVB sit tenth, nine points behind Augsburg in the final European qualification place, and a point ahead of the Billy Goats.

After four wins on the bounce the task of breaking into the top six began to look possible for Dortmund, but dropping two vital points in a stumbling draw at Hamburg on Matchday 24 means Klopp’s men can ill afford any more slip-ups. But now they face one of the best teams away from its own ground this season.

"Cologne are dramatically more effective on the road," said Jürgen Klopp at his press conference Thursday. Five wins in 12 away games for Die Geißböcke this season compares favorably to a home return of only two victories.

For Klopp to have any sort of chance of claiming a reasonable season, Dortmund will have to replicate the kind of form that saw it go 28 games unbeaten in 2011/12, when it clinched the league title. A place in Europe rather than the league title should be the prize that motivates it this time.

No ‘Robbery’, no party

It was a record equalling night for Bayern Munich on Wednesday, with seven goals put past Shakhtar Donetsk without reply as yet another Champions League quarterfinal place was booked in style. Bayern must now refocus on Saturday’s visit to Bremen, one of the league’s in-form teams, when it will be without the lethal wing pairing of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben.

Robben and Ribery

The pair dubbed 'Robbery' have been in devastating form for Bayern this term

Labelled 'Robbery' by Bayern fans, the club confirmed on Thursday that both Robben (pinched nerve) and Ribery (ankle) would miss the trip to Bremen after limping off well before the end against Shakhtar.

The attacking duo have been in astronomical form for the runaway leaders this season. Combined they have either scored or assisted in over half of Bayern’s league goals (36 of 66), so to lose its biggest influences in attack could prove costly against the buoyant Bremen.

Every cloud has a silver lining, though, with Philipp Lahm returning to the bench in midweek and primed for a first start since breaking his ankle in training in November.

Viktor Skripnik has been nothing short of a miracle worker in his time with the Green-Whites. Eight weeks ago, after 16 games, Bremen was bottom of the Bundesliga with a turmoil-ridden second half of the season expected to follow. Since then, however, it has climbed eight places whilst collecting 19 points largely thanks to the signing of Jannik Vestergaard in defense, the production of Zlatko Junuzovic in midfield, and the goals of Franco Di Santo up front.

Indeed in 2015, only Wolfsburg and Bayern have fared better than Bremen. With no Robbery in red and blue on Saturday, it could be time for Bremen to cash in.

Bundesliga Matchday 25 fixtures: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Stuttgart (Friday), Werder Bremen vs. Bayern Munich, Frankfurt vs. Paderborn, Augsburg vs. Mainz, Hertha BSC vs. Schalke, Hoffenheim vs. Hamburg, Borussia Dortmund vs. Cologne (late Saturday), Wolfsburg vs. Freiburg, Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Hannover (Sunday)