Robert Lewandowski has done a great job for Borussia Dortmund in the absence of Lucas Barrios, but it could be time for the Paraguayan international to take back his place.
Champions Borussia Dortmund have had an inconsistent start to the season with five wins from nine Bundesliga matches. On Friday evening, they moved into third with a terrific 2-0 victory over Werder Bremen as Jurgen Klopp's men put on a resilient display.
Die Borussen went down to ten-men early in the second half and had to dig deep with the likes of Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic inspiring Dortmund to hold on under severe pressure from Werder. Klopp will be hoping the stuttering from has come to end and Friday's victory provides a superb platform to keep in touch with Borussia Moenchengladbach and FC Bayern.
But the Dortmund coach has an extremely difficult decision looming when Paraguayan forward Lucas Barrios is finally ready to start challenging team-mate Robert Lewandowski for the lone-forward position. Barrios has been out of action for the majority of the campaign after picking up a thigh injury on Copa America duty with the Paraguayan national team. The striker was an integral part of Dortmund's title-winning campaign with 16 Bundesliga goals in 32 appearances last season.
In Barrios' absence, Robert Lewandowski has been handed the perfect opportunity to stake a claim for a first-team place and the Polish hitman isn't going down without a fight.
Lewandowski was one of Poland's brightest talents when he made the £4m move from Lech Poznan in 2009 but struggled to force his way in to the team due to Barrios' excellent contribution in an in-form side. When the chance did come for the 23-year-old, who made 15 appearances last season, Klopp would normally be forced to play him in an attacking midfield role. After Shinji Kagawa's foot injury at the Asian Cup in January, Lewandowski became an important part of the Dortmund side playing just off Barrios in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
The eight goals last season certainly showed the glimpses of attacking talent from Lewandowski but unsurprisingly, Dortmund stumbled towards the title without their classy Japanese midfielder. At the start of the season, the Polish striker had a dry patch in the first-team with just one goal from the first four games and two in the first seven matches of the campaign. But with Barrios edging closer to the starting eleven, Lewandowski has produced some impressive performances, showing the same composure and scoring-prowess as the Paraguayan.
For some, the international break is an inconvenience but it has allowed Lewandowski to build on a hat-trick against FC Augsburg and with goals against South Korea and Belarus, he is now enjoying his best patch of form this season.
There are many differences between Barrios and Lewandowski, with the latter possessing a more talented all-round game with very good movement and link-up play with the supporting attackers. In a difficult match against Werder Bremen at the weekend, Lewandowski was one of Dortmund's star performers and was so important with the visitors down to ten-men on 46 minutes. Thomas Schaaf's men had Dortmund pinned back for long spells in the game and the 23-year-old's strong hold-up play gave BvB a good outball for the counter attack which caused Bremen all-sorts of problems.
Lewandowski has a 75% passing completion ratio from his nine starts this season and wins almost half of his aerial battles - including netting twice from headers so far. But even with such a polished game, Barrios has a dynamism and pace which Dortmund have been lacking in their attack this season.
In every match Barrios scored last season in the Bundesliga, Die Borussen went on to win their match. The Paraguayan joined Dortmund in July 2009 from Colo Colo and scored 19 goals in his debut season in Germany which was followed up by another 16 last term.
Something which is probably favouring Barrios when it comes to who starts in attack is that he has produced in big matches against the likes of FC Bayern and Schalke, where as, Lewandowski has yet to prove himself in those games.
With matches against the league-leaders and rivals Schalke coming up in November, it will be interesting to see whether Jurgen Klopp has confidence in his Polish striker or opts to bring back Lucas Barrios after an injury lay-out.