Borussia Dortmund will be 'hunting' third place in the Bundesliga when they host Augsburg on Saturday, before they even think about closing the 12-point gap behind leaders Bayern Munich.
A bad run of injuries, and subsequent poor league form, saw Dortmund claim just four points from their last six league games of 2013, including three consecutive home defeats, to slump from second to fourth. With wing backs Lukasz Piszczek and Marcel Schmelzer included in those back from injury, coach Juergen Klopp says he is now enjoying making tough selection choices, rather than cobbling a team together.
With Dortmund five points behind second-placed Bayer Leverkusen and just a point adrift of third-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach, Klopp wants to catch up with those rivals before even thinking about Bayern: "It will be the first time that I will have to make some hard decisions about who will play, which is nice," said Klopp as the Bundesliga resumes this weekend after a four-week winter break.
"To be able to fight, you need a goal you can reach and we are so far back that we have to catch up with the two teams ahead of us first. We are in the role of the hunters now, we're fourth and catching Bayern isn't our goal. It's all about facing Augsburg and trying to get third place back."
Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said that Borussia's goal for the rest of the season is to qualify directly for next season's Champions League, which would mean a top three league finish. Klopp said both his Germany stars, midfielder Ilkay Gundogan and centre-back Mats Hummels, are not yet fit to face Augsburg, but will return in the coming weeks.
"Ilkay had a back problem, then a virus, but it won't be long before he is back," said Klopp. "Mats is looking good in training, his hamstring isn't a problem and I expect him to return for Eintracht Braunschweig (on Friday 31 January)."
Meanwhile, Dortmund have asked the German Football League (DFL) to change the kick-off time for their home Ruhr Valley derby against Schalke 04 on March 25 be moved from 2030 (local time) to 2000. The thinking is to give security stewards and police a better chance of curbing violence during daylight after rioting broke out before the last derby in Dortmund in October 2012.