Borussia have made two really big statements in the past three days. For starters, Mönchengladbach inflicted the first defeat on top team RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga and then went on to beat Shakhtar Donetsk 6-0 in Ukraine – a team that had previously tamed Real Madrid and drawn with Inter Milan in their last two European games. Accordingly, Gladbach could hardly be more confident ahead of the clash with the Werkself. “In this game, we got lots of things, and possibly everything, right,” declared a happy coach Marco Rose after the runaway victory in Ukraine. It produced by far the biggest win for the Foals in the Champions League to date – and a win that catapulted Mönchengladbach to the top of the group of death with Real, Inter and Shakhtar. An interim position that few people expected but is richly deserved. Borussia were on the verge of victory against Real Madrid and Inter Milan but conceded late on. And in the league? There could be a continuation of the perennial duel of the past two years with Bayer 04 and Borussia competing for fourth place in the table right up to final matchday. The two teams are currently fourth and fifth with Mönchengladbach one place and one point behind the Werkself.
Rose has recently again and again rotated his side in the many double-fixture weeks. He can afford to do that as Mönchengladbach have a very balanced squad. Practically the only regular starters in every game are goalkeeper Yann Sommer, central defenders Matthias Ginter and Nico Elvedi plus right-back Stefan Lainer. Denis Zakaria also belongs to this group. However, the midfielder has been sidelined for the last eight months with a knee injury and is currently still not back in full training – an absence that hits Borussia hard and which they have had to get used to. The only other player missing due to injury is reserve full-back Andreas Poulsen and homegrown player Jordan Beyer is just set to be on the subs bench after overcoming a coronavirus infection.
A recent option is new signing Valentino Lazaro, who has arrived on loan from group opponents Inter Milan. The Austrian was ruled out at the start of the season with a muscle injury and only played his first minutes in a Gladbach shirt last Saturday against Leipzig. That was followed by fifteen minutes against Shakhtar. It is possible that Rose will entrust the midfielder with a somewhat bigger role against the Werkself. In any event, Lazaro already extends the broad range of players in the Gladbach squad.
Mönchengladbach are characterised by their versatility. Rose likes to switch between a back three and a back four and he is frequently able to change his line-up as he has a very balanced squad including up front. In addition, attacking players like Jonas Hofmann, Breel Embolo and Marcus Thuram are very versatile and can play in different positions without a reduction in quality. Much more important than a fixed formation: The team has taken the fast and energetic Rose football to heart and every player knows his role regardless of the particular formation. This flexibility makes Mönchengladbach a very unpredictable opponent and the quality in every part of the team is high and there are no obvious weak spots.
Borussia could be in an even better position if they were able to hold onto leads with greater regularity. But goals conceded late on have proved to be their Achilles heel in the season to date. The game against Real Madrid was particularly disappointing as Borussia missed out on making the most of an impressive performance as they gave away a 2-0 lead with two goals after 87 minutes. The Foals conceded the equaliser in the 2-2 draw with Inter Milan on 90 minutes – and Rose’s team was in the lead in the Bundesliga against both Union Berlin and Wolfsburg but ended up drawing 1-1 with goals conceded in the closing stages of both games.
Regression in the second season under Rose is not expected – on the contrary. The team has not lost any key players, has gained quality and is taking the next step under their coach. Particularly in the Champions League, Mönchengladbach have impressively demonstrated what this team is capable of domestically and in Europe. Will we again see a neck-and-neck race between the Foals and the Werkself? That can’t be ruled out…
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