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21.05.2020Bundesliga

Our next opponents: What will Rose have up his sleeve?

The second away game in succession for the Werkself – this time with a really short journey: Bayer 04 travel to Mönchengladbach on Saturday, 23 May (kick-off: 15.30 CET). A conceivably difficult task at the moment and not just due to the quality of Borussia.
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Position

It's as if there had never been a two-month break. The Bundesliga restart went like clockwork for Borussia Mönchengladbach. The Foals took the lead after just 35 seconds in the away game at Eintracht Frankfurt. It was 2-0 after seven minutes and ended up in a 3-1 victory for Borussia. Admittedly: Borussia Mönchengladbach have some experience in matches behind closed doors. Before the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, the club were hosts in the first Bundesliga game behind closed doors against FC Köln – and Marco Rose's team won the game. "That experience helped us," said the midfielder Tobias Strobl. Two games without fans, six points – Borussia appear to be in optimal condition for the run-in. The win at the weekend improved their position in the table taking them into third place above RB Leipzig. No doubt: It’s no coincidence Mönchengladbach were top of the table before the winter break – Rose has turned the team into an absolutely top side in the league.

Personnel

And Frankfurt were on the receiving end straight after the restart: It's incredibly difficult to prepare for Mönchengladbach. The coach Rose has an incredible number of options in attack. Alassane Plea, Marcus Thuram, Breel Embolo, Lars Stindl, Patrick Herrmann, Jonas Hofmann: They are all not only incredibly dangerous in front of goal but are also versatile. Sometimes Thuram moves from the centre to the wing, sometimes Embolo is a disguised playmaker, sometimes Stindl the false nine. Even his pedigree striker Plea does not mind relinquishing his central striker role and moving to the flanks. Accordingly, Rose likes to change his side around. At the beginning of the season, he mostly played with two up front, then changed to 4-3-3 before finally more often adopting a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Above all against the top teams in the league, the former Bundesliga defender also likes to try very special tactical tricks. For example, in the second half of the season games against Leipzig and Dortmund, Mönchengladbach played with a back three and in the 2-1 victory over FC Bayern in the first half of the season, the Foals played with a diamond formation. So it is possible that Rose will pull something out of the hat for the clash with the direct rivals from Leverkusen. The newly created opportunity of making five substitutions allows the Foals to have thoroughly impressive back-up with players like Raffael and Ibrahima Traoré.

Problems

Mönchengladbach will have to manage without one of the absolutely key players in the team against the Werkself – and probably a few weeks after that as well: Midfielder Denis Zakaria injured his knee in a collision with Gladbach keeper Yann Sommer just before the coronavirus pandemic caused the league to be suspended. Originally, Borussia hoped the Swiss could benefit from the break and be back on the pitch for the restart. But that didn't happen: Due to continuing problems, Zakaria had to have an internal investigation of his knee at the beginning of May and that rules him out against Bayer 04. A blow for Mönchengladbach, because as deep as the squad is, the Foals have no exact replacement for the linking player who is a target throughout Europe.

Potential

Mönchengladbach have undergone an incredible transformation in the 2010s: From relegation candidates to regular appearances in European competitions – and now even into a club that has an outside chance of winning the league title in the last third of the season. The signing of Marco Rose as head coach is the next step to take the Foals to a higher level in the European comparison. The infrastructure and the backbone of the squad make that development a definite possibility in the coming years.

Prediction

Any doubts that the break enforced by the coronavirus pandemic would put an end to Borussia's great performances were impressively brushed aside by the team at Frankfurt. At the same time, a crucial game awaits: The Werkself in fifth place want to take the position Mönchengladbach currently hold. The outcome of this encounter could well be decisive in determining which of the two teams will again play in the Champions League in the coming season.

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