Facing Monaco, Dortmund anxiously await Marco Reus' return
BERLIN: Marco Reus can't return soon enough for Borussia Dortmund.
The speedy forward's absence was painfully evident in Saturday's 4-1 loss at Bayern Munich and his presence would significantly boost Dortmund's chances of getting past Monaco in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Dortmund hosts the French league leaders in the first leg on Tuesday, with Reus again unlikely to play as he struggles to make his way back from a hamstring injury.
Reus' importance to Dortmund has been highlighted by the team's patchy form in the Bundesliga in the five weeks since he injured his right thigh against Bayer Leverkusen.
Two losses, a draw against Schalke in the Ruhr derby and only two wins over relegation-threatened clubs have seen the side slip from third place with a two-point lead over Hoffenheim to fourth, one point behind. Third guarantees Champions League participation, fourth only a playoff.
"No one can imagine what it means for us to do without him for so long," Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel said of Reus last week. "He makes all the players around him better. We miss his influence and his intensity. But we're worried about how we get him back. We're optimistic but we're also concerned about follow-up injuries."
Reus, who returned to Dortmund from league rival Borussia Moenchengladbach in 2012, has been plagued by injury in his time at the club. He has only played in 11 of the team's 28 Bundesliga games this season, alongside three Champions League appearances and one in the German Cup.
Reus' frequent ailments have seen him being dubbed a "Pechvogel" among German media - literally a bad luck bird - as one setback has followed another.
An ankle injury just before the 2014 World Cup ruled Reus out of Germany's triumph in Brazil, while a groin injury ruled him out of the European Championship in France.
But Dortmund's problems have been exacerbated by injuries to others. Mario Goetze is out indefinitely with metabolic disturbances causing his recurring muscular problems, while Andre Schuerrle, Sven Bender, Julian Weigl, Shinji Kagawa, Erik Durm and Lukasz Piszczek all missed Saturday's game against Bayern. Gonzalo Castro went off with a knock.
"We have hopes for Julian Weigl and Shinji Kagawa. And I think that Lukasz Piszczek, who we rested today, can play. There's little point in counting on any of the others," Tuchel said Saturday.
Tuchel will be hoping Dortmund's strength at home - the team has only lost once its last 12 games in UEFA competition at the at its Westfalenstadion - will help his side reach the semifinals for the first time since 2013. Bayern, which Dortmund again faces in the German Cup semifinals on April 26, triumphed in the final at Wembley Stadium.
April, Tuchel said, is the "most complicated and deciding month of the season," and the Dortmund coach is anxiously looking to his injured players.
"If it wasn't April I'd say, go slow," Tuchel said. "We have a huge, huge balancing act to manage."