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ESPN FC  By ESPN

Marco Reus' health is Borussia Dortmund's top priority - Peter Stoger

Protecting Marco Reus is Borussia Dortmund's highest priority, Borussia Dortmund coach Peter Stoger said on Friday.

"He must stay healthy," Stoger said of his playmaker at a news conference on Friday.

Having returned from an eight-month injury lay-off earlier in February, Reus did not start in Dortmund's 1-1 Europa League draw at Atalanta on Thursday.

However, after winning the first leg 3-2 at home, Dortmund needed to cancel out the Italian's early lead, and the 28-year-old came off the bench to revive BVB's attacking game, which had been hapless for most parts of the round-of-32 clash.

"He asked not to start," Dortmund coach Peter Stoger told reporters at his prematch news conference for the upcoming league match against Augsburg. "If the game had taken a different turn, he would not have played."

However, Reus' help was much needed as he played a central role in Marcel Schmelzer's 82nd-minute equaliser. Atalanta keeper Etrit Berisha was unable to contain the Dortmund striker's shot from just inside the box, and captain Marcel Schmelzer calmly put away the rebound to secure BVB's place in the round of 16.

Dortmund are being cautious with Marco Reus' return from injury.

Reus has now played in all four games since returning from injury, and Stoger said: "If someone has not played in eight months, you must be very careful. If he's not that fresh, he will have more one-on-one situations.

"As important as he is for us, his health has the highest priority. He must stay healthy, and he's always involved in the question whether he plays or not."

Like Reus, Germany midfielder Mario Gotze has endured a difficult spell in past months. After coming back from a season-ending illness for the beginning of the 2017-18 season, a ruptured ankle ligament ruled him out for over a month in late November. And despite making 22 appearances in all competitions, he has yet to find his rhythm.

Stoger said of Gotze: "He's stable now, and is getting better with every day. He wasn't fit when I came here in December, and could not train fully in our winter training camp.

"He's pain free now, and my wish is that it stays that way for longer. He needs his rhythm. And if he plays more games, we'll see just how good a footballer he is."

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