Our next opponents: Gladbach’s 'summer football' in January

The first competitive match of 2019 is a very special encounter for Bayer 04: The Bundesliga debut for Peter Bosz as Werkself head coach as Borussia Mönchengladbach visit the BayArena on Saturday (19 January, 15.30 CET). It will be the third meeting of the two teams in the current campaign. What do the Werkself have to be prepared for this time? The lowdown on our next opponents.


The Foals only relinquished their position as the closest pursuers of Borussia Dortmund on the last matchday before the winter break. In the game against the league leaders from Dortmund, Mönchengladbach narrowly lost 2-1, which meant they had to concede second spot to FC Bayern after weeks in the runners-up position. Nevertheless, there can hardly be anybody in the Gladbach camp who is not fully satisfied with the first half of the season. Above all, the home record is enormously impressive: Borussia have won all eight games in front of their own fans and only conceded three goals along the way. The reward: Third place after 17 matches and just three points behind the record champions from Munich. A starting point that the team, under coach Dieter Hecking, are looking to build on. The manager and his players have just completed a winter training camp in Jerez de la Frontera in southern Spain and in the last outing before the restart of the Bundesliga, Borussia lost on penalties to Bayern Munich in the final of the Telekom Cup. The Foals beat Hertha Berlin 1-0 in the semi-finals before that.


To date, there have been no winter transfers at Gladbach – although there were clear indications that a fan favourite would be on his way out. However, shortly before flying out to the training camp, sporting director Max Eberl told the Rheinische Post: "Patrick Herrmann is staying. Now is too late for a transfer as the second half of the season is about to start." The departure of Herrmann, who has played for Borussia since 2008, was almost a constant subject of discussion on the Lower Rhine in the past with VfB Stuttgart most recently being named as a potential new club. Herrmann will now play for Mönchengladbach in the second half of the season – and it appears to be highly likely he will feature at the BayArena on Saturday. Hecking showed his confidence in the 27-year-old in the top of the table game at Dortmund before the winter break and Herrman was also in the starting eleven for the final of the Telekom Cup. The pacey striker could feature against Bayer 04 as Fabian Johnson may well be sidelined with a hip problem. The USA international missed the Telekom Cup games and the final friendly at the training camp. And the skilful Raffael is also unlikely to face the Werkself after suffering a fractured collarbone in December: There are also question marks over longer term absentees Jonas Hofmann and Matthias Ginter.


The friendlies at the training camp did not go to plan for the Borussia coach Dieter Hecking: First a 2-1 defeat against second division FC Magdeburg and then a 2-0 loss against Belgian top-flight side Standard Liege. The Gladbach head coach was particularly disappointed with the performance of his team in the first game against the side next to bottom in the second division, which he described as "summer football" and he criticised the attitude of his players. Following the Liege game, Hecking declared: "We haven't yet got up to speed as we need to. It was all much too slow. That won't be good enough against Leverkusen." With the last sentence, the coach will almost certainly have been thinking of the DFB Cup game at the end of October when Bayer 04 inflicted the only defeat on the Foals at Borussia Park in the first half of the season – and how: The Werkself knocked Borussia out of the competition with a 5-0 victory. Hecking and Co. will definitely be looking to avoid that happening again.


The fact that Borussia Mönchengladbach players were once again on the wish lists of top European clubs during the winter break could well be seen as a compliment by the club management on the Lower Rhine. Not only was Gladbach's top goalscorer and provider Thorgan Hazard (pictured above) being pursued by league leaders Borussia Dortmund but Tottenham Hotspur were also interested in midfielder Denis Zakaria. Both players joined Mönchengladbach at a young age and have made incredible progress since then – fitting in with the plans of the sporting management at the club. Hazard and Zakaria follow on seamlessly from players like Marco Reus or Granit Xhaka, who also made the breakthrough at Borussia Park. Borussia Mönchengladbach have an outstanding reputation both at home and abroad – and will also be a top club for talented players in the future.


An early DFB Cup exit, no European games: Borussia can focus completely on the Bundesliga in the second half of the season. That could be crucial in a tight battle at the top of the table – coupled with Gladbach's incredible home form. If the team maintain that success in front of their own crowd and key players like Hazard and Ginter remain fit then the chances are more than good that Mönchengladbach will again qualify for Europe next season after the previous two ninth-place finishes. The Foals certainly seem likely to at least qualify for the Europa League group stage next term.

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