Julian Nagelsmann braces himself for his first game in charge of Bayern Munich as they take on Borussia Monchengladbach on Friday night.
Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayern Munich go head to head in the curtain-raiser of the 2021/22 Bundesliga campaign this Friday. It promises to be a riveting contest between two clubs hoping to kickstart a new era under the leadership of new coaches.
On the one hand, Julian Nagelsmann is desperate for a positive start after a faulty pre-season that saw his team fail to secure a single victory. Managing a club of this magnitude was always going to be a challenge for the 34-year-old, especially in the wake of a pandemic that has prevented him from signing too many players in the market.
However, the former Hoffenheim tactician will be aware of the fact that a positive start to the campaign should relieve all the pressure, giving his side the confidence to get back on track.
Things are equally challenging for Gladbach, who are yet to make any notable moves in the market aside from bringing in Luca Netz. New coach Adi Hutter, therefore, will have to make use of the resources currently available to him.
The Austrian tactician does have a solid record against Bayern from his time at Eintracht Frankfurt. But his new team may require some time to settle in, thus making the Bavarians the favourites heading into this affair.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two clubs ahead of this Bundesliga curtain-raiser at the Borussia Park this Friday.
Team News & Tactics
Borussia Monchengladbach are missing out on a couple of their star players, including Ramy Bensebaini. The timely arrival of Luca Netz could thus be a massive boost for the club, although it is Joe Scally who is a favourite to start at left-back, forming the four-man backline alongside Matthias Ginter, Nico Elvedi and Stefan Lainer.
Hutter is most likely to use a traditional 4-2-3-1 formation but will be aware of the flexibility of the opposition. Unfortunately, Denis Zakaria is in quarantine, which means the German duo of Christoph Kramer and Florian Neuhaus should be in charge of the double-pivot. It will be an enticing prospect for the Gladbach coach to add another midfielder into the box.
Jonas Hofmann is certainly a candidate as he can effortlessly shift into a wide role. In fact, we expect the German international to start as a right-sided midfielder, whereas Hannes Wolf should occupy the opposite flank.
Wolf is a more dynamic winger and will be in charge of attacking the Bayern flanks, where they can be extremely vulnerable. As for the central areas of the park, the onus will be Lars Stindl and Alassane Plea to spearhead the Gladbach frontline, with Marcus Thuram likely to be used as a super-sub.
With Breel Embolo out, the Foals do not have too many alternatives on the bench. But the returning Laszlo Benes will certainly be given some game-time on Friday. Patrick Herrmann, too, is in contention for an appearance against Bayern as he is one of the most experienced members of the current attack.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Sommer; Lainer, Ginter, Elvedi, Scally; Kramer, Neuhaus; Hofmann, Stindl, Wolf; Plea
Bayern Munich have been dealt with a massive blow heading into this game as key right-back Benjamin Pavard has picked up an ankle ligament injury. It should give Nagelsmann a headache in the right-back position, especially as the club does not have too many alternatives at their disposal.
Niklas Sule is being considered as a deputy, but the centre-back has struggled in recent months. Hence, it won’t be surprising to see Nagelsmann relying on the much-maligned figure of Bouna Sarr. Fortunately, Alphonso Davies is fit enough to start, with the left-back set to accompany Tanguy Nianzou and Dayot Upamecano in the four-man backline, hoping to provide cover for Manuel Neuer in goal.
In order to supplement the relatively weak defensive line, Joshua Kimmich is set to be stationed in the holding midfield role. His control of the game will be vital as Bayern look to prevent the opposition from causing too much trouble, especially on the counter.
Partnering Kimmich will be the two advanced midfielders in Leon Goretzka and Thomas Muller. Goretzka may see himself in the Marcel Sabitzer role, trying to oscillate between attack and defence. His ability to drive forward into the opposition territory could be an asset for the Bavarians this Friday.
Finally, in attack, Nagelsmann may want to start with the wide duo of Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane, with Robert Lewandowski spearheading the forward line. Bayern do have alternatives in Jamal Musiala and Kingsley Coman, along with Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.
Probable Lineup (4-1-2-2-1): Neuer; Sarr, Upamecano, Nianzou, Davies; Kimmich, Muller, Goretzka; Sane, Gnabry; Lewandowski
- Joe Scally is set to become the fourth American national to play for Gladbach in the Bundesliga after Kasey Keller, Fabian Johnson and Michael Bradley.
- No team has taken more points off Bayern in the last ten years than Gladbach (27), who have also won the last four Hinrunde encounters.
- Robert Lewandowski has finished as Bundesliga top scorer in the last four seasons in a row. He has scored on the opening matchday for six seasons running.
- Julian Nagelsmann has faced Gladbach 11 times as a coach (W3, D5, L3).
- Bayern Munich have won a league-high 36 of their Matchday 1 fixtures and are unbeaten in their previous nine (W8, D1). Gladbach are the only team to beat them on the opening weekend in the last 23 years, doing so twice.
Player to Watch
Robert Lewandowski is unquestionably the player to keep an eye on in this exciting matchup at Borussia Park. The Bayern Munich forward narrowly beat Gerd Muller’s record of 40 goals last season to create history. And in what may well turn out to be his final season in the Bundesliga, he will be keen on starting off on a positive note.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this game is to see how Lewandowski fits into Nagelsmann’s more flexible and less traditional approach. The Pole is certainly a conventional centre-forward, but he has never shied away from a challenge. However, in a system that requires intense flexibility, both from a technical and positioning sense, the striker certainly needs to be on his toes.
For Gladbach, too, it is essential that they keep hold of Lewandowski, who is more than capable of causing all kinds of problems. The former Dortmund star had scored a hat-trick in his last game against the Foals, helping Bayern Munich seal a thumping 6-0 victory. He will be hoping for a similar result this time around.
Borussia Monchengladbach 1-2 Bayern Munich
This promises to be a difficult game for both sides as they look to settle in under their new coaches. Bayern certainly have the upper hand due to their overall strength, coupled with Gladbach missing a few of their star players.
Nevertheless, it might turn out to be a cagey affair, with the hosts pressing Bayern intensely for the most part of the proceedings. However, we are expecting the visitors to kickstart their campaign with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Borussia Park, with the likes Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller likely to dominate.