On match day 9 all the hype around the top table clash between Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayern Munich favored the champions, who were high on confidence from their dismantling of AS Roma in the Champions League. What made it all the more interesting was that both the teams were unbeaten this season. For the first quarter of an hour, things seemed to be going easy for Bayern. Then the home team found their feet and slowly started to take control. Everything started to fall into place for the hosts and Bayern slowly lost their momentum. Bayernai??i??s midfield that was excellent throughout this season was stifled by the energetic duo of Christoph Kramer and Granit Xhaka.

The back-line, well marshalled by Martin Stranzl cut out the Bayern frontline with authority and despite the early pressure, Yann Sommer surprisingly was not made to work hard against the best attack in the league. By the end of the match, Bayern narrowly escaped their first defeat thanks to Manuel Neuer, who denied the Monchengladbachai??i??s forward line time and again. Bayernai??i??s lion share of possession resulted in 5 shots on target, which was equal to Monchengladbachai??i??s who managed to do it with just 28% on the ball. The Foals may not possess the wealth of personnel as Bayern do, but they clearly showed that the battle for the League is not over yet as many would have thought.

Dortmundai??i??s slip, Monchengladbachai??i??s Rise

Bundesliga this season has been full of surprises no doubt. Dortmundai??i??s shocking league form is still a mystery to many given their Champions League dominance. Schalke are slowly starting to improve under new coach Di Matteo as Mainz, Wolfsburg and Leverkusen are having mixed results keeping the race for the 3rd Champions League spot interesting. Even though Hoffenheim have been brilliant after going 9 matches unbeaten, Lucien Favreai??i??s men are the strongest of the lot to challenge for the title, which they showed by beating them 3 goals to 1 in style. Monchengladbach have been the second-most consistent team in Germany.

No dreaming, but there is ambition

The fans at Borussia Park might have felt many times that they shouldai??i??ve won the matches the team drew this term. Their forward line had been at their devastating best when they won matches, but equally profligate in front of dogged defenses. The hard-working midfield have been key to grind out draws from games that wouldai??i??ve ended up in defeat. Head coach Lucien Favre said in a pre-season interview, ai???we’re ambitious, but we’re not dreaming.ai??? The season opener against Stuttgart where Christoph Kramer scored a late equalizer to clinch a draw showed the intent of the coachai??i??s words.

Even though they managed a goalless draw against FC Freiburg, it was almost like a win given their poor record against them in recent years. Their finest moment came when they thumped four goals into Schalkeai??i??s net, which heaped more misery on Jens Keller. Draws against Villareal, FC Zurich and Rhineland rivals Mainz with narrow wins over bottom placed Hamburg SV and a hard-working SC Paderborn was a bit frustrating for the Borussians yet they went from strength to strength by beating relegation-threatened Hannover 3-0, and then thrashing Cypriot club Apollon Limassol 5-0. They came out proving their title credentials with morale boosting 0-0 draw against the title holders Bayern Munich. Their impressive form continued with a win against Eintracht Frankfurt at their home in the DFB Pokal second round. And on match day 10, by cruising past undefeated Hoffenheim 3-1, the Folnhelf remain one of the two Bundesliga teams yet to be beaten on three fronts.

Star Performers

Max Kruse is no longer a newcomer at the club after a brilliant first season where he scored 12 goals laying as many for his teammates. He hasMonchengladbach been the go to man this season – involved in 7 of the team goals in this league, scoring 5 and assisting 2. He came close to adding to that tally against Bayern but was denied by some good work by Manuel Neuer. Kruseai??i??s partner in crime and last seasonai??i??s top scorer Raffael has been an absolute thorn in the opposition defenses. The Brazilian has donned a playmaker role this season helping to create chances for his other teammates. Andre Hahn, Partick Hermann have been a constant threat in the final third scoring 10 goals in all the competitions and assisting 3 goals between them. Their wing-play have been the most crucial to hit oppositions on the break.

However, the main credit goes to the hard-working midfield Lucien Favre employed in his usual 4-4-2 formation this season. Christoph Kramer has been the beating heart of that midfield making 113 tackles, which is the highest for Monchengladbach so far and also covering more distance than any one of his teammates. Granit Xhaka has been supporting Kramer superbly breaking up play, stifling opposition midfields, spraying the ball to his teammates upfront. The defenders have done a good job despite being below par in some games. But Favre has made good use of the versatility his defense possesses many times this season. Tony Jantschke and Alavaro Dominiguez proved that they can play in a full-back position as well as partner Martin Stranzl at the heart of the defense whenever their coach needed 3 central defenders at the back.

Oscar Wendt and Julian Korb have been pretty much solid at the back with performance against Bayern being their standout performance. And against Hoffenheim, Korb was very good winning the highest number of tackles among the back four and also contributing to the 20 interceptions made by his team. Overall the team has made 172 interceptions and blocked 39 shots in 10 league matches, which is a decent defensive performance and they could create more problems for oppositions only if they continue to defend as they did against Bayern.

Clever Spending by Favre

There need to be a special mention for the new recruits who have been very important. Chelsea loanee Thorgan Hazard and Fabian Johnson from Hoffenhiem have been equally important as the team regulars. The younger brother of Eden Hazard has a great set-piece ability, which Favre should make use of more frequently. Fabian Johnson has been doing the job exactly what he was brought for, playing the role of super-sub. His high work-rate for providing defensive solidity as well as making overlapping runs in to the opposition box had a huge impact whenever the Foals were looking for a spark on the pitch.

Johnsonai??i??s ability to play in midfield is still raw but can be used whenever there is a need for more shield at the back. Ibrahima Traore who also has been used as a substitute for most of the season scored 2 crucial goals in the Europa League and also youngster Branimir Hrgota was instrumental in securing Europa League qualification scoring 5 goals in the 10-2 win against FK Sarajevo. Though all of them have not become team regulars like Andre Hahn, they have contributed to the unbeaten run as substitutes making an impact by coming off the bench at any point of time. Yann Sommer has become the undisputed number 1 at Borussia Park, brought in to replace Marc Andre Ter Stegen. He started in all of the matches this term making 38 saves and conceding just 5 in 10 league matches.

Can the sweet 70ai??i??s return?

Gladbach are currently sitting 3rd in the League table with 5 draws and 5 wins only goal difference separating them from 2nd placed Wolfsburg. The road to quarterfinal looks clear in the cup competition as they are pitted against fourth tier side Kickers Offenbach after clearing round 2, beating Eintracht Frankfurt to reach the knock-out stages. Whereas in Europa League they have every chance to finish toppers in a group with Villareal, FC Zurich and FC Apollon.

Bayern with all their financial strength have been able to splash money on Europeai??i??s top talents, but Lucien Favre has assembled a quality team spending smartly with whatever resources were made available to him and instilled great team spirit. Their tally of 17 unbeaten games reminds the Monchengladbach faithful their glory days back in the 70ai??i??s where the club enjoyed unprecedented success winning 5 League titles and 2 Europa League trophies. Unless there are no hiccups after the winter break like last seasonai??i??s slip, the Foals are truly on their way to something special.

~ written by Guest Author Samarnath Soory

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