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14.01.2022Bundesliga

Our next opponents: Swift reunion with Friedrich possible

The Werkself are away to Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday, 15 January (kick-off: 18.30 CET). The Foals have signed Marvin Friedrich from Union Berlin this week and the defender is definitely an option for the starting line-up. The lowdown on our next opponents.
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Position

Borussia Mönchengladbach are currently twelfth in the Bundesliga table after 18 games. They are just four points above the play-off spot. The question of whether the club should be looking up or down the table was countered by head coach Adi Hütter: "I'm fundamentally a positive human being. So, we would be well-advised to look up." At the same time, the Austrian coach continued, they are well aware of the tricky situation that continues to face the Foals. Even last weekend's 2-1 away win at league leaders Bayern Munich does not change much. "Nevertheless," said Hütter, "I have full confidence in our team."

The first half of the season proved to be disappointing for Borussia. Gladbach were only able to win five games (four draws, eight defeats) before Christmas. That made the club management even happier with the recent win away at the record champions. The victory may have reduced the pressure to a degree. It was the first three points after five games in succession without a win (one draw, four defeats). "If we get on a good run then we can make up ground," declared Hütter. The aim for him and his team is now to "repeat the performance we produced in Munich" against the Werkself.

Personnel

Hütter will again be without the services of defender Ramy Bensebaini (AFCON) and midfielder Jonas Hofmann (rehab training after knee operation) on Saturday. The two versatile defenders Dennis Zakaria and Joe Scally are available again after recovering from Covid-19 infections and will certainly be options for the squad as will winter signing Marvin Friedrich. The 6 foot 4 defender joined Gladbach from Union Berlin this week on a contract to the summer of 2026.

"He's a brave defender, who knows about back threes, is very organised and he can also provide a goal threat with his height," said Borussia's sporting director Max Eberl in highlighting some of Friedrich's qualities following on from his visit to Leverkusen last Saturday. Coach Hütter added that the 26-year-old has "developed really well" in recent years and is a possible for the starting line-up despite the short space of time before his first match for the new club. The Kassel-born player, whose sister Melissa Friedrich plays for the Bayer 04 Women's team, made 21 appearances for Union this season. According to Hütter, he is also "in a good rhythm" and a serious "option for the match on Saturday."

Performers

The Foals have had 274 shots on goal this season, which is the second most in the league, with only league leaders Bayern Munich having more (356). The Borussia central midfield has played a big part: Gladbach have several outstanding players for the middle of the park in former Leverkusen player Christoph Kramer, Jonas Hofmann, Dennis Zakaria, Manu Koné and Florian Neuhaus. The latter named above all has made his returned to centre stage after up and down performances in the first half of the season: "Florian," said Hütter, "showed in the winter that he will do all he can to get back to his maximum performance levels. He can play the final ball, has great vision and has shown he can score goals." All that makes the 24-year-old an important player in midfield. The Werkself should also be aware of the Borussia forward line: Even though Alassane Plea (three goals), Lars Stindl, Breel Embolo (two each) and Marcus Thuram (no goals to date) could not reproduce their form from last season in the first half of this campaign, they have enormous quality and will definitely have big ideas for the second half of the season.

Problems

Although Borussia Mönchengladbach have had the second most shots on goal of all Bundesliga teams this season, they have often lacked accuracy, which explains why they have only scored 24 goals so far. The Foals have created a total of 45 clear-cut opportunities this term – four more than Gerardo Seoane's team. However, Stindl and Co. have only been able to convert 31%, which is the second poorest return in the league after VfL Wolfsburg (29%). The Hütter team have also conceded 33 goals – with only Hertha Berlin (38) and bottom-placed SpVgg Greuther Fürth (49).

Prediction

The first half of the season was distinctly disappointing for Borussia who are considered to be competitors for a European finish. Five wins from the first 17 games no way reflects the ambition at Gladbach before the start of the season. The away win at FC Bayern may have created calm after five games without a win in succession and also provided a boost for the forthcoming fixtures. "Leverkusen are a team with similarities to Bayern," said Hütter ahead of the match. So the Gladbach head coach will be hoping his team will be able to take "the good feeling" from the Munich game forward – and also lay the foundations for a more successful second half of the season and possibly achieve a European qualification slot.

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