By Greg Lea.
It is fair to say that Borussia Dortmund are in title-winning form at present.
Thomas Tuchel's side have won nine of their last 11 Bundesliga encounters, scoring 30 goals in the process and conceding only 11, and have taken a total of 44 points from their 19 matches in 2015/16 just one fewer than title contenders Arsenal have gained from five games more in the Premier League, by way of comparison. The only problem for the 2011 and 2012 champions is that Bayern Munich's brilliance means there is very little chance of them lifting the Bundesliga trophy at the end of the campaign in May. Their title-winning form, in essence, will not be enough to bring BVB the title this year.
Nevertheless, there is still plenty for Dortmund fans to be positive about at the moment. Saturday's 2-0 win over Ingolstadt means they are now 10 points clear of third-placed Hertha Berlin, with a return to the Champions League next season now virtually a certainty. They are also in the quarter-finals of the DFB-Pokal, while a Europa League round of 32 tie against Porto awaits later this month arguably the club's biggest failing so far this season was failing to finish first in their group to set up a theoretically easier draw with Dortmund the bookmakers' favourites to win the tournament for the first time in their history.
BVB possess an excellent squad of players and, despite numerous reports linking some of their stars with big-money moves to La Liga or the Premier League, there is no real financial need for Dortmund to cash in. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is in the form of his life the Gabon international has netted 20 goals in 19 league games and 29 in 29 in all competitions and has attracted attention from many of Europe's biggest clubs, while the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Julian Weigl, Matthias Ginter, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mats Hummels and Marco Reus have also been the subject of transfer rumours in recent months.
Whenever such stories surface, it is worth remembering that Dortmund themselves are a huge side. No other outfit in the world game has a higher average attendance this term in fact, the Black and Yellows have topped that particular table every year since 2011, when Barcelona attracted more fans to the Camp Nou and Signal Iduna Park is widely considered one of the most iconic stadiums in Europe.
As well as the fine group of players that has been assembled at Dortmund, the club also have a terrific young manager at the helm. The 42-year-old Tuchel has excelled in his first few months in charge since joining from Mainz in late June, making tweaks to the system left behind by Jurgen Klopp and adding his own personal touch to the way BVB go about things. Klopp, winner of two titles and one domestic cup at Dortmund, was undoubtedly a tough act to follow, but Tuchel has hitherto passed that particular test with flying colours week after week.
Dortmund are a little more adaptable now, able to control games through sustained spells of possession as well as stinging opponents with the familiar counter-pressing tactic that was frequently employed under Klopp. They are now much better at retaining the ball and find it far easier to break down teams who pack men in their own half of the pitch and stand off in a deep and compact defensive shape.
For all of those indisputable plus points, it is highly unlikely that Dortmund will win the Bundesliga this season. After a disappointing final year under Klopp in 2014/15, however, the eight-time German champions are clearly on the up once more.