Borussia M nchengladbach
Borussia-Park, M nchengladbach
Saturday, 15:30 GMT
Its third versus fourth in the Bundesliga as Borussia Monchengladbach host Bayer Leverkusen at home. The game is also a clash of probably the two best teams in the Bundesliga at the moment as the two sides have been on a brilliant unbeaten run of late and have hence strengthened their league positions and closed the gap between themselves and second-placed Wolfsburg. Leverkusen have a better goal difference than Monchengladbach as they have scored 59 times compared to Gladbach who have found the net 47 times, but it the home side who have been more clinical defensively.
Only two points separate the sides, so we could be in for an end to end game considering that an automatic Champions League qualification spot is at stake.
Tactics and lineup
Borussia M nchengladbach
M nchengladbach have been brilliant of late and eight wins in their unbeaten 11 game run just underlines that fact. In the run, Lucien Favre’s side have beaten the likes of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg which has made everyone stand up and take notice. Favre has set his team up perfectly based on the opposition and goes with a counter attacking mindset against teams he feels could hurt them. That doesn’t necessarily mean parking the bus. Against weaker teams, Gladbach have gone with a possession based game.
Favre has stuck to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Max Kruse and Brazilian center forward Raffael playing just behind him. Raffael isn’t really a playmaker, but a secondary striker who is good with his movement. The playmaking is left to the likes of Granit Xhaka and Christoph Kramer who form the double pivot in front of the defense. Both of them aren’t pure holding midfielders, but their positioning has been so good that rarely have they had to put in tackles. The two wide players expected to start the game are Thorgan Hazard and Patrick Hermann. The latter has been a star performer for Gladbach and has scored 10 times this season despite playing wide right. Hermann’s lightning pace coupled with his vision is a potent weapon that Favre has made use of this season.
In defence, the quartet of Oscar Wendt, Tony Jantschke, Roel Brouwers and Julian Korb are expected to start. Brouwers could get the nod ahead of Marvin Schulz simply because of the difference in experience and considering that the defence will be up against Stefan Kiessling who is all about making those clever runs. Yann Sommer is expected to start in goal.
Predicted XI: Sommer; Wendt, Jantschke, Brouwers, Korb; Xhaka, Kramer, Hazard, Raffael, Hermann; Kruse
Leverkusen boss Roger Schmidt believes in a very demanding approach unlike Favre’s counter attacking style. Earlier in the season, Leverkusen were brilliant going forward but conceded a host of goals at the back. While the pressing from the front is still present, Leverkusen have deployed a covering approach at the back compared to the first half of the season when they used to press all out and played a high line.
The key to Leverkusen’s good run in the Ruckrunde has been the defence. Emir Spahic’s departure hasn’t affected the side’s strong defensive performances as Tin Jedvaj, Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Omer Toprak have stepped up to the plate. Papadopoulos’ injury last week was a minor blow as it leaves Leverkusen just one more injury away from a defensive crisis. However, with just three games left, Leverkusen could get lucky. Wendell and Hilbert will most likely support Toprak and Jedvaj as the full backs.
We could see Lars Bender returning into the starting lineup in place of Stefan Reinartz. Bender is expected to play alongside Simon Rolfes with Gonzalo Castro out injured. The duo will play in front of the defense. Karim Bellarabi and Julian Brandt are expected to start on the wings and will provide a big test to the Gladbach full backs. Bellarabi has been Leverkusen’s player of the season so far and has scored 11 goals in addition to his nine assists. Hakan Calhanoglu will be Leverkusen playmaker and will provide a huge threat from set pieces as he is undoubtedly the best free kick specialist on the planet right now despite being just 21 years of age. Stefan Kiessling is expected to lead the line after picking up his form in the last few games. Bernd Leno is expected to guard the posts.
Predicted XI: Leno; Wendell, Toprak, Jedvaj, Hilbert; Bender, Rolfes; Brandt, Calhanoglu, Bellarabi; Kiessling
- Leverkusen won seven games in a row and kept six clean sheets in those games prior to their draw against Koln a game ago.
- Monchengladbach have lost just once in the Bundesliga Ruckrunde (second half of the season).
- Leverkusen are unbeaten against Monchengladbach in their last five encounters.
- Gladbach’s last win over Leverkusen came in 2012.
Borussia M nchengladbach 2-2 Bayer Leverkusen
With both the sides in such brilliant form, it’s hard to pick one side. However, we can see a goal glut coming and the game could finish 2-2.