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Have Manchester United found their next Paul Scholes?

Much has been made of the lack of creativity in the centre of midfield for Manchester United since the ageing and initial retirement of Paul Scholes. An attempt to sign Wesley Sneijder was thought to have been made last summer, while countless deep-lying playmakers have been linked with a switch to Old Trafford since. However, could Borussia Dortmund’s Mario Gotze be the answer

The Germany international playmaker has been on the radar of top European clubs for a number of seasons now, but it appears that the wonderkid will be a major target for many this summer. Despite being tied down to a long-term contract to the Bundesliga champions currently, Gotze has recently admitted that a switch to a top European club, such as United, would be hard to resist.

“Clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United are attractive, other top leagues would dominate you and you could develop.”

United are by no means desperate for a central midfield maestro, given the passing ability of Michael Carrick and the clever footwork and industry of Tom Cleverley. That said, with Anderson ineffectual and seemingly on his way out of the club and continued doubts over Darren Fletcher’s fitness, Sir Alex Ferguson would be well advised to invest in someone to give the side a shot in the arm from the centre of the park.

Mario Gotze

Someone like Gotze would obviously provide that spark. At 20 years old the Memmingen-born player has the world at his feet, and is set to be an immense talent over the next decade, or longer. With 20 international caps in a top Germany team already under his belt it would be no surprise to see him make 100 appearances for his homeland before he finally hangs up his boots.

The fee to persuade Dortmund to sell would be considerable, plus the player has made no great shakes about leaving Signal Iduna Park. However, as good a side as Dortmund are, it is only natural that Gotze will want to play for one of Europe’s top historical sides if he progresses at his current rate, and the opportunity to move to Old Trafford would certainly appeal to him.

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Shakhtar Donetsk vs Borussia Dortmund: The game no one expected

When the draw for the group stage of the Champions League was first made, few would have imagined this being a second-round match.  But both clubs have reached the knock-out stage on merit and are more than capable of serving up a classic.

Drawn in what many called “the group of death”, Borussia Dortmund showed the rest of Europe what Bundesliga fans had grown accustomed to: topping the group unbeaten, taking four points off Real Madrid and consigning Manchester City to an early exit.

Jürgen Klopp’s team are fast becoming the talk of Europe, in no small part due to the number of their players regularly linked elsewhere.  But for now their squad remains intact and has every chance of making a real impact in this year’s competition.

Marco Reus

Currently 15 points behind Bayern Munich, Klopp will see Europe as more than an escape hatch from domestic inconsistency; he will see it as a chance to replicate the club’s 1997 Champions League success.  In what is likely to be Robert Lewandowski’s last season for the club, the Polish striker can punish a team with the second worst defensive record in the group stage.

But then you would also have said that of Chelsea, who lost 2-1 in the Ukraine and only won at Stamford Bridge after Victor Moses’ 94th-minute rescue act.

Shakhtar have been making steady progress in Europe since their 2009 Europa League success, and much like Dortmund, came through a tough group with aplomb.

Currently on a break from domestic competition, the Ukrainian champions and league leaders have been keeping match fit with a series of friendlies.  Whether that will be enough to keep out the likes of Lewandowski and Mario Götze, and find a way past the imposing defensive partnership of Mats Hummels and Neven Subotić, is another matter.

But having won all but one of their 18 league games so far, and having played their part in ousting reigning European champions Chelsea, Mircea Lucescu’s team will be confident of going further. With the creativity and goal scoring threat of Luiz Adriano, Alex Teixeira and Fernandinho, the dark horses could beat the other dark horses at their own game.

Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich: The young and the new of German football meet

With three points separating the top two teams in the Bundesliga, leaders and champions Borussia Dortmund host perennial powerhouses Bayern Munich in a massive game at Signal Iduna Park on Wednesday. A win for the hosts will all but seal back-to-back titles, whilst an away victory will give the biggest club in German football the impetus to go on to win their title back.

Jurgen Klopp has transformed an underperforming and mediocre Dortmund setup into a well-tuned and talented squad of promising stars since taking over at the club in 2008. The team’s Bundesliga crown last season was the first since 2002, and the 44-year-old trainer has continued where he left off last term in 2011/12. Many feared for Die Borussen after the forced sale of key midfielder Nuri Sahin to Real Madrid and a slow start to the season, whilst Champions League elimination in the group stages proved that the young pretenders have a way to go yet to replicate the historic achievements of the European champions team of 1997.

Despite this, a run of ten wins from 13 league games propelled the holders back to the top of the standings, and the crown is now Dortmund’s to lose. With home advantage and their opponents still with European distractions, Klopp’s young superstars will look to strike a decisive blow on Wednesday. The likes of Mats Hummels, Shinji Kagawa, Mario Gotze (although he will not play through injury) and Robert Lewandowski have shone over a fantastic 24-month period for the club.

Off the pitch, Dortmund recently claimed another victory over their traditionally superior rivals. The signing of Borussia Monchengladbach and Germany attacking midfielder Marco Reus, wanted by the Bavarians also, shows that Klopp’s men are serious in their rejuvenation and could be ready for a period of dominance in the country.

Bayern, by their own admittance, were poor last season but a summer of rebuilding, the arrival of Jupp Heynckes and a better start to the campaign has saw Die Roten back to their ominous best at times this campaign. Despite spending spells on top of the pile and thrashing sides on occasion, inconsistency has crept in at times domestically, which Dortmund have taken advantage of.

With Real Madrid lying in wait in what should be a mouth-watering Champions League semi-final, the Allianz Arena outfit have a potentially memorable end of season ahead of them. However, both Los Blancos and Dortmund will put Bayern under pressure, with the side’s defence still to really prove that it has what takes to challenge for honours. The attacking abilities of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez are not in question, however it is whether Bayern can shut out an attacking-minded Dortmund side that will be the difference in the game.

Dortmund won the reverse fixture 1-0 at the Allianz Arena through a solitary Gotze strike, and despite Bayern’s history, players and prestige will go into this game as favourites. The home side could well be on the verge of a new era of success, with 90 minutes for the young Borussen stars to prove their worth and retain their title.

The Champions, Perennial Giants or Underdogs? Bundesliga title to go down to the wire

This season’s Bundesliga campaign has already been as exciting and enthralling as any in the recent memory, especially given the tightly contested title race. At the time of writing champions Borussia Dortmund sit top of the pile, after a great run of form has made up for a sluggish start. Bavarian giants Bayern Munich have an unbelievable amount of talent at their disposal and want their top flight crown back at the Allianz Arena. Meanwhile, last season’s relegation escapees Borussia Monchengladbach have defied theodds by challenging for top spot with a rock solid defence. But where is the Bundesliga title going in 2011/12?

Borussia Dortmund

After an impressive campaign last year where Jurgen Klopp’s young superstars won the German top flight at a canter, a very slow start to this campaign had many questioning the longevity of the relatively inexperienced group. However, after Champions League expulsion, the Signal Iduna Pak outfit have been able to solely focus on domestic matters, and are now top of the Bundesliga by four points.

Die Borussen have won 12 games in a row in all competitions, and their attacking stars such as Shinji Kagawi and Robert Lewandowski are impressing suitors in Germany and further afield. A blow for the holders has been the injury to key playmaker Mario Gotze, but the side have not missed the Germany international too much as others have stepped up to the plate. Most certainly the team to beat, it is Dortmund’s title to lose with 11 games remaining.

Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich are Germany biggest and most successful team, but when things don’t go to plan the Bavarian team and fans gets rather restless. After losing their first game of the season, Jupp Heynckes’ side hit their straps and bulldozed their way to the top of the standings in impressive fashion. With Jerome Boateng and Manuel Neuer adding defensive steel to the attacking prowess of Arjen Robben, Mario Gomez, Franck Ribery et al, Bayern looked like a shoe-in for the title.

However, inconsistency and defeats against the other two challengers for the league have seen the Allianz Arena team drop to second. Add to this the fact that they are still in the Champions League, and Die Roten need to up their game, starting with a tricky away fixture against Bayer Leverkusen at the BayArena this weekend. The fixture against Dortmund on April 9th could well decide the destination of the crown.

Borussia Monchengladbach

Currently in third place, Borussia Monchengladbach have had a fantastic season to date, and even if they do slip away from title contention must been applauded for going toe-to-toe with the big boys and more than holding their own. Lucien Favre’s side’s success has been largely based around their stellar defensive abilities; the underdogs have only conceded a miserly 14 goals in 23 fixtures this season. Whether or not they can on to finish in the Champions League qualification places or even win the division is in the balance; they are currently in third, five points off the pace.

A downfall to a smaller club’s success is that the inevitable purging of players starts to take effect, and this has been the case at Monchengladbach. Undoubted star Marco Reus is on his way to Dortmund in the summer, Roman Neustadter is heading off to Schalke, whilst Bayern court Brazilian defender Dante. One thing is guaranteed; if Monchengladbach finish first or tenth they should be saluted for their captivating form this season.

Published – Bundesliga Talk

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