Ilkay Gundogan. Picture: REUTERS/RALPH ORLOWSKI
Ilkay Gundogan. Picture: REUTERS/RALPH ORLOWSKI

BERLIN — Borussia Dortmund will have playmaker Ilkay Gundogan 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 past five games and have matched leaders Bayern’s run this season 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 Gundogan, 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.

Gundogan’s creative play has helped Dortmund total 54 goals in 22 league matches this season, two fewer than Bayern. He was expected to be included in the Europa League squad to visit Porto last night.

The Ruhr Valley club are without central defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos who will be sidelined after being injured against Leverkusen.

Talismanic midfielder Sven Bender signed a five-year contract on Tuesday and has urged teammates to follow suit by agreeing new deals.

That is an indirect reference to Gundogan who has yet to decide whether to extend his deal that runs out next year.

"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 ending 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 over Mainz under new coach Julian Nagelsmann last weekend.

Dortmund have another two league games scheduled next week including a crunch match against champions Bayern.

The Bavarians, top on 59 points, travel to VfL Wolfsburg tomorrow 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, travel to Cologne tonight.

Reuters