With the Bundesliga season back on track, we enter the business end of the campaign with the title race and the relegation battles reaching their key phases. There are also European places up for grabs, but Borussia Mönchengladbach have their sights firmly set on the Champions League.
Going into the current season back in August there was a fair amount of uncertainty around Gladbach. Having finished fifth the previous season, sporting director Max Eberl took the unconventional decision to part company with the successful Dieter Hecking and bring in the relatively unknown Marco Rose from RB Salzburg.
Eberl justified his decision at the time by saying: “In Marco Rose I believe we have a trainer who can make the next step for us.” Based on the season so far, that ‘next step’ is in the process of being made with the Fohlen currently sitting third with eight games left to play.
They are mathematically still in contention for the title as they are ‘only’ six points behind leaders Bayern Munich, and in these strange times anything seems possible, but in all likelihood it will be the third or fourth spot that Borussia Mönchengladbach will be targeting.
A return to the Champions League for the first time since the 2016-17 season will rank as a huge justification for Eberl and his brave decision to hire Rose. Back then they were unlucky to be drawn in a group alongside Barcelona and Manchester City and dropped into the Europa League after the group stage.
So far, so very good
It has already been an impressive season for Gladbach, but a top four finish would be the icing on the cake. Finishing as Herbstmesiter behind RB Leipzig came as a bit of a surprise, and the fear was that they would not be able to maintain their form and would fall away in the second half of the season.
They had enjoyed their best win of the season by beating Bayern at the Borussia Park on matchday 14 and were top of the table for a short while. Rose was getting the best out of an exciting front line of Alassane Plea, Markus Thuram and Breel Embolo. The dynamism of Denis Zakaria in midfield coupled with the solidity of Mathias Ginter and Nico Elvedi in defence gave Marco Rose a core group more than capable on paper of achieving something special this season.
But as the saying goes: ‘football is not played on paper; it’s played on grass’.
The Rückrunde began with loss away at Schalke, but in the eight games before the season was interrupted by the Covid-19 crisis, Gladbach had taken 14 points from a possible 24 (losing to Dortmund, but getting a point versus Leipzig) and were maintaining their push for a top four finish.
Whether the title run-in is a canter or a gallop for the Foals remains to be seen. It realistically looks like Bayer Leverkusen are the only team likely to challenge Gladbach for the top four, with Bayern, Dortmund, and Leipzig the other runners and riders in the race for the Champions League spaces.
|(a) Mainz||(h) Leverkusen||(a) Gladbach|
|(h) Hertha Berlin||(a) Werder Bremen||(h) Wolfsburg|
|(a) Köln||(h) Union Berlin||(a) Freiburg|
|(h) Paderborn||(a) Freiburg||(h) Bayern Munich|
|(a) Hoffenheim||(a) Bayern Munich||(a) Schalke|
|(h) Fortuna Düsseldorf||(h) Wolfsburg||(h) Köln|
|(h) Dortmund||(a) Paderborn||(a) Hertha Berlin|
|(a) Augsburg||(h) Hertha Berlin||(h) Mainz|
As you can see, Gladbach and Leverkusen have similar run-ins and crucially meet each other on the next matchday at the Borussia Park. The outcome of this clash could prove pivotal to the eventual outcomes for both sides. The reverse fixture on matchday 10 ended in a 2-1 win for the visitors with goals from Oskar Wendt and Markus Thuram taking all three points.
Gladbach and Leverkusen both still have to face Bayern before the end of the season but die Fohlen have to travel to Munich for their match. In this time of ‘Geisterspiele’ it is hard to determine what advantage home sides will have. They both have to face Freiburg, Wolfsburg, and Hertha in their final eight games, but the Werkself have to squeeze in their DFB Pokal semi-final against Saarbrucken as well.