Borussia Dortmund will be looking to continue where they left off before the international break when they host Mainz 05 at Signal Iduna Park on Saturday.
The hosts battled to two narrow victories in the absence of vital players prior to the break, whereas the visitors have hit a small blip after an initial bright start to the Bundesliga campaign.
Without star striker Erling Braut Haaland, Dortmund really do appear to be a completely different side, with a noticeable difference in all-round team performances in his absence.
The Norwegian’s goals are obviously the biggest miss when he is unavailable, but BVB also lack a spearhead to their attacks, and a target man to link up with in transitions with the ball.
In the three games that Haaland has missed so far, the Black and Yellows have fallen to a lacklustre 1-0 defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach in the Borussenderby, before bouncing back with narrow victories over Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League, and Augsburg in the final match before international commitments took over.
Only three goals were scored in those fixtures, compared with 23 in the eight previous matches in all competitions this season, so the return of their main man, as well as a number of others gradually making their way back into the squad, will be a welcome sight for manager Marco Rose.
Finding his side third in the table as it stands, as well as earning two wins from two in the Champions League so far, life in Dortmund has begun fairly positively for Rose after his arrival from Monchengladbach in the summer.
With a 100% home league record so far this season, as well as 14 goals scored in those four matches, Saturday’s match will see Rose looking for his side to build on their victories before the break, in order to gain some momentum ahead of a potentially consistent push for the title this time around.
Meanwhile, the visitors have hit a small bump in the road during manager Bo Svensson’s first full campaign in charge at the club.
After joining the doomed side in January, where they had accumulated just six points and appeared destined for relegation during the 2020-21 season, the Danish coach pulled off arguably the greatest escape in German top flight history to see Die Nullfunfer end up finishing a comfortable eight points clear of the drop zone.
Carrying that form into the new Bundesliga campaign, Mainz won three of their first four fixtures, which included an opening weekend victory over title hopefuls RB Leipzig.
Focusing his tactics on a solid defensive platform to build from, Svensson has transformed the Karneval club into one of the toughest and most stubborn to play against across the division, which resulted in just the two goals conceded from the opening five matchdays.
However, prior to the international break, Mainz struggled to build on their impressive start, picking up just one point and scoring just the one goal from their last three games.
Defensively they remained compact, conceding just three in this time, but struggles at the other end of the pitch means that there are reasons for concerns to begin creeping in for the first time in a while.
Svensson will not have his side panic, though, particularly when they head to a venue on Saturday where they have unexpectedly picked up four points on their last two visits, despite the calibre of their opponents.
Borussia Dortmund Bundesliga form:
Borussia Dortmund form (all competitions):
Mainz 05 Bundesliga form:
We say: Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Mainz 05
The visitors are likely to remain tough to break down on Saturday, but the quality of Dortmund, on home soil in particular, should see the hosts come through in the end.
If Haaland and co can return to form immediately, then the scoreline could well be a wider margin, but it should be a comfortable victory for BVB.