Two of the most entertaining teams in the Bundesliga go head-to-head as Borussia Monchengladbach get ready to host Bayer Leverkusen at Borussia Park.

The Bundesliga race is more intense than ever as there are just eight points separating leaders Bayern Munich from 5th placed Bayer Leverkusen, who could temporarily rise to third place after their visit to the west of the Rhine river, as they get ready to lock horns with Marco Rose’s Borussia Monchengladbach in the Rhine Derby.

Both teams resumed their campaigns with comfortable away victories against Eintracht Frankfurt and Werder Bremen, defeating them 1-3 and 1-4, respectively. Kai Havertz grabbed the headlines for Leverkusen with a brace of headers, while Ramy Bensenbaini grabbed a goal and an assist each for Gladbach.

Rose’s men sat atop the Bundesliga for seven matchdays in the first half of the season, but have slowly fallen off the ladder as the weeks have gone by. However, they were able to recover a bit after RB Leipzig dropped points against Freiburg in a 1-1 draw last week. Gladbach will be able to go just three points shy of Bayern if they beat Leverkusen outfit – at least until the leaders play Frankfurt three hours later.

Both of these sides, along with VfL Wolfsburg, have conceded an equal number of goals – 31 – the third-lowest in the division, behind Bayern and Leipzig with 26 and 27, respectively. Despite that, Gladbach have three clean sheets fewer than Die Werkself, who have eight, the joint second-highest along with Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund.

The previous fixture between the sides ended in a 2-1 win for Gladbach, while Leon Bailey picked up a red card in the 97th minute of the game. The show, however, was run by none other than Marcus Thuram, who set up the opener for Oscar Wendt and then scored himself in the 41st minute.

Team News & Tactics

Borussia Monchengladbach

Denis Zakaria will miss out for Gladbach (Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Denis Zakaria will miss out for Gladbach. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Die Fohlen will yet again be without the services of Denis Zakaria, who is out with a knee injury after undergoing surgery. While Borussia Monchengladbach have not put a time frame on his return, the Swiss could be out for the rest of the season. Losing arguably the best midfielder in the league during such a crucial part of the campaign could turn out to be a huge blow for Gladbach.

They will also be missing veteran full-back Fabian Johnson after he picked up a muscular injury in training before the Bundesliga returned to action.

Meanwhile, Patrick Herrmann and Lars Stindl, both of whom were touted to be unfit to return, came off the bench against Frankfurt. The former may be in contention to start this game because of his impressive goalscoring returns against Bayer Leverkusen. His six goals against the visitors are the most he has scored against a Bundesliga side.

French power duo, Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea are expected to keep their starting positions in the lineup after scoring a goal apiece last week. Breel Embolo, who started the game as a centre-forward, should also retain his spot.

Jonas Hoffmann is likely to be replaced by Herrmann, who will play as a no. 10, stationed ahead of  the double pivot of Tobias Strobl and Florian Neuhaus, both of whom had an absolute field day last time around.

Matthias Ginter will be partnering Nico Elvedi, who has been linked with a move to Arsenal, at the heart of the Borussia Monchengladbach defence, with Stefan Lainer and Ramy Bensebaini providing the width from deep ahead of the brilliant Yann Sommer.

Lainer had a game to forget at the Commerzbank Arena, losing possession 23 times in the 90 minutes, highest among the 32 players that participated in the game, and he will be eager to improve when Leverkusen pay Gladbach a visit.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Sommer; Lainer, Ginter, Elvedi, Bensebaini; Neuhaus, Strobl; Plea, Herrman, Thuram; Embolo

Bayer Leverkusen

The visitors will be without Kevin Volland, who has been out with a serious ankle injury he suffered in February. The striker, who is Leverkusen’s top scorer in all competitions was reportedly out for the season, but is making great strides in training and could recover earlier than expected.

Peter Bosz will also have to manage without club captain Lars Bender, who will not be travelling with the squad after picking up a foot injury in training.

Sven Bender will start the game alongside the incredibly successful January signing Edmond Tapsoba. Mithcell Weiser, who scored against Werder Bremen in the previous fixture, is expected to start this game as the right-back, while Daley Sikgraven will assume responsibility on the left in the absence of Lars Bender.

LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 17: Peter Bosz, head coach of Bayer 04 Leverkusen looks on prior to the Bundesliga match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Fortuna Duesseldorf at BayArena on February 17, 2019 in Leverkusen, Germany. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images)

This is the chance for Peter Bosz & co. to leapfrog Gladbach. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Charles Aranguiz and Kerem Demirbay are expected to be given the responsibility to screen the backline. An attacking midfielder by trait, Demirbay can comfortably play as a no. 8 as well. His man of the match performance against Bremen, which included a goal and an assist, is proof of the same.

However, Bosz might opt for a more defensively solid option in Julian Baumgartlinger against a very lethal Gladbach attack. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Florian Wirtz made his Bundesliga debut last week and became the third youngest in the league’s history to do so.

But, things are expected to go back to normal, with Karim Bellarabi starting on the right wing, while Moussa Diaby will be deployed on the opposite side. Kai Havertz took up the centre forward role last week quite effortlessly, but Leverkusen coach Bosz could play Lucas Alario in that role with the German international behind him.

Having said that, it seems unlikely that Bosz will change the team structure. Finally, Nadiem Amiri will be playing as the attacking midfielder and will be responsible for transitions from midfield.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Hradecky; Weiser, Tapsoba, Bender, Sinkgraven; Aranguiz, Baumgartlinger; Bellarabbi, Amiri, Diaby; Havertz

Key Stats

  • There have been 249 goals scored in the 75 Bundesliga meetings between Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen – an average of more than three per game.
  • Leverkusen went a Bundesliga record 26 games undefeated against Gladbach between 1994 and 2010, but the Foals have won each of their last three meetings.
  • Alassane Plea has been Gladbach’s most potent attacking force this season, with nine goals and seven assists.
  • Kai Havertz remains Bayer Leverkusen’s youngest goalscorer and the fastest player ever to reach 100 Bundesliga appearances. Three of his 24 assists have come against Gladbach, but he is yet to score against them.
  • Peter Bosz’s biggest ever win as a Bundesliga coach came against Borussia Monchengladbach, when he oversaw Borussia Dortmund’s 6-1 victory over them in September 2017.

Player To Watch

Kai Havertz

Bayer Leverkusen's key man. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Bayer Leverkusen’s key man. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Havertz has the world at his feet at the moment, with rumours linking him with a move to all the top clubs across the continent. His move away from the BayArena this summer is pretty much imminent.

The 20-year-old sensation has yet again taken the league by storm, with eight goals and five assists in 23 appearances. He has led Leverkusen to a resurgence in the second half of the season as the club chases a Champions League spot.

Havertz has played everywhere across midfield and attack this term, but has also been incredibly consistent with his performances. Borussia Monchengladbach boss Marco Rose will need to pay extra attention to the wonderkid, who best operates in spaces between the opposition defence and midfield, exactly where his team is most vulnerable.

Prediction

Borussia Monchengladbach 3-4 Bayer Leverkusen

This match is bound to be one of the most entertaining encounters of the season as two attack-minded coaches lock horns to attain a Champions League spot. Both Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen have done superb work on their defence, but neither of them is likely to end this game with a clean sheet.

Despite having the home advantage, we are giving the advantage to Bayer Leverkusen, led by the ever impressive Kai Havertz. The Hard Tackle predicts a 4-3 win for Leverkusen, with Yann Sommer giving a good account himself despite the loss for his team.

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