The cup dreams of the Foals came to an abrupt end just before Christmas last year: Bayer 04 won 1-0 at Borussia Park with a goal scored by Leon Bailey to knock Borussia out of the competition early on. The fact the team coached by Dieter Hecking have great ambitions in the DFB Cup this term was clearly demonstrated in the first round. Away to fifth tier club BSC Hastedt, Mönchengladbach showed no mercy as they coasted to an 11-1 victory – The biggest winning margin in the first round. Now comes a repeat of that clash with the Werkself. Borussia were able to make amends on matchday one in the Bundesliga with a 2-0 win against the Black and Reds – the start to an impressive season by the Foals in Germany's top flight that reached a high point at the start of the month with a 3-0 victory over Bayern Munich. However, there was a setback on Friday night with a 3-1 defeat away to SC Freiburg . The Hecking team are currently third in the table on 17 points.
Since the signing of the Frenchman Alassane Plea in the summer, Gladbach once again have a real central striker. His presence was absolutely essential at the start of the season as both the captain Lars Stindl and the outstanding technician Raffael, who were the front two last term, missed several games through injury. Now Plea, who misses the cup match due to a thigh injury, provides constant competition but also support up front on the pitch: Stindl made his comeback from an ankle injury picked up at the end of last season in the victory over Bayern and he promptly found the back of the net. And Raffael (pictured above in challenge with Kai Havertz), who has been sidelined since the start of September with a calf problem, has now returned to full training. The Freiburg game came too early for the Brazilian but he could at least be back in the squad for the tie against the Werkself to provide another alternative in the talented Gladbach attack that includes Thorgen Hazard and Jonas Hofmann in addition to Stindl. If Raffael is fit then Hecking will have almost a full squad to choose from. Only the 20-year-old talent up front Julio Villalba is missing due to a shoulder injury.
A lot is going right on the Lower Rhine this season. Only consistency has slipped a bit for the team – Hecking's team showed little of their previous strength at Freiburg. In general, the defence keeps on suffering from lapses of concentration. The result: Borussia have the lowest numbers league wide in terms of chances conceded and chances created. Mönchengladbach do appear susceptible on the flanks at times. In central defence, both Matthias Ginter and Nico Elvedi are having an impressive season so far but have made slight slips as well. Another problem for coach Hecking: He does not have many alternatives in the back four should there be long-term injuries.
Exactly ten years ago, Max Eberl took over as sporting director at Borussia. At the time, the club was constantly battling against relegation but now Mönchengladbach are one of the top teams in German professional football. Further proof of the outstanding work by the former defender on the Lower Rhine: Since he took over in October 2008, only four other clubs in the Bundesliga have collected more points than the Foals. The recipe for success: Eberl believes in youth players and in his time as sporting director he has brought through players including Marco Reus, Marc-André ter Stegen and Mahmoud Dahoud, while currently midfielder Florian Neuhaus (21) and defender Louis Beyer (18) are often on the pitch. And: Eberl also believes in continuity. In spite of the second ninth place finish last season, he voiced his confidence in coach Dieter Hecking and is now indicating a contract extension at the end of the season. Without doubt, there is good reason for the Gladbach success.
If the Foals can gain revenge on the Werkself for being knocked out last season then Borussia could go far in the DFB Cup having won all their home games this season and – as the victory over the reigning Championships showed – their attacking strength can pose problems for any team. If the team remains free of injuries to key players, then Mönchengladbach could do well beyond the cup competition.
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