Preview - Guendogan back to boost high-flying Dortmund
By Karolos Grohmann
BERLIN (Reuters) - Borussia Dortmund will have playmaker Ilkay Guendogan back against struggling Hoffenheim on Sunday as they look to keep up their pursuit of Bayern Munich by notching a third straight Bundesliga victory.
Dortmund have won four of their last five games and have matched leaders Bayern's 2016 run to stay eight points behind in second place while opening a 15-point gap on Hertha Berlin who are third.
The return of German international Guendogan, who has missed two matches with a virus, will further boost their midfield options following last week's comeback by Nuri Sahin after a long-term injury.
Forward Marco Reus is also expected to be back after coming on for the second half of the 1-0 victory at Bayer Leverkusen last week following a minor injury.
Guendogan's creative play and assists have helped Dortmund total 54 goals in 22 league matches this season, two fewer than Bayern.
He could also be included in the Europa League squad to visit Porto later on Thursday.
The Ruhr Valley club are without central defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos who will be sidelined for three weeks after being injured against Leverkusen.
Talismanic midfielder Sven Bender signed a five-year contract on Tuesday and has urged team mates to follow suit by agreeing new deals.
That is an indirect reference to Guendogan who has yet to decide whether to extend his deal that runs out in 2017.
"I have not seen a second Borussia Dortmund out there where I would like to play," said Bender. "There are some players whose contracts are running out and I would be happy if the core of this team could stay together."
Visiting Hoffenheim are still second from bottom despite having secured their first win under new coach Julian Nagelsmann last weekend, a 3-2 home victory over Mainz.
Dortmund have another two league games scheduled next week including a crunch match against champions Bayern.
The Bavarians, top on 59 points, travel on Saturday to VfL Wolfsburg with last season's runners-up in the middle of a domestic crisis.
Wolfsburg have claimed one win in nine games, a run that has seen them slip to eighth position on 31 points.
Hertha, who have 36 points, travel to Cologne on Friday.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)