After enjoying their best game of the season on matchday 7 against RB Leipzig, the international break probably came at the wrong time for Borussia Mönchengladbach. Their performance in the 3-0 at the Borussia Park was comprehensive and the visitors from Saxony were lucky to escape with just a three-goal defeat as Jonas Hofmann and Marcus Thuram ran riot.
The task now for the Foals is to bring that level of performance consistently and the challenge starts with a trip to the Weser Stadion on Saturday, although all three of their away games this season have ended in draws (Schalke, Bayern, and Freiburg).
Mönchengladbach currently lie 6th with twelve points from seven games (the same as Bayern) and will not want the pack ahead of them to open up too big a gap so three points at Werder will go a long way to confirming them as a team to watch in regards a top six finish this season.
The Foals do have the advantage over some of their rivals that they are not involved in European action meaning that the extra burden of the ‘englische Wochen’ won’t unduly affect their players. They have a number of players really hitting form at the moment (Ramy Bensebaini, Christoph Kramer, Marcus Thuram, Jonas Hofmann) and the team seem to have really bought into new coach Daniel Farke’s possession brand of football.
Hosts Werder will be largely pleased with the nine points they have taken from their opening games as a newly promoted side. They will however want to see a run of positive results and also to make more of home advantage at the atmospheric Weser Stadion. They haven’t won yet at home this season (a draw with Stuttgart and losses versus Frankfurt and Augsburg) with both wins coming away at Dortmund and Bochum.
It is also a tale of two strikers on the banks of the Weser with Niclas Füllkrug hitting five goals already and earning calls to be included in the German World Cup squad, while strike partner Marvin Ducksch has yet to find the back of the net.
Having picked up five yellow cards in the opening seven games, Amos Pieper is suspended for this game meaning that Niklas Stark will probably come into the back three on the right-hand side.
Trainer Ole Werner could go with the same midfield that did well against Bayer Leverkusen last time out meaning Jens Stage and Leonardo Bittencourt will have to settle for a place on the bench.
Possible line-up: Pavlenka, Stark, Veljkovic, Friedl. Weiser, Groß, Jung, Schmid, Gruev, Füllkrug, Ducksch
Hannes Wolf’s shoulder injury from the win over Leipzig has been operated on so he is out, while Ko Itakura remains on the sidelines with a knee injury. Alassane Plea could make a return to the squad following his adductor injury and it is thought Marcus Thuram’s slight calf problem won’t keep him out of the starting XI.
Christoph Kramer should continue in his more advanced role with Weigl and Koné as the holding midfielders.
Possible line-up: Sommer, Scally, Friedrich, Elvedi, Bensebaini, Weigl, Koné, Hofmann, Kramer, Stindl, Thuram
What they’re saying:
Ole Werner: “Our intention was to keep as many of the things from last year as possible. Based on our performances and our current points tally, that has proved to be the right approach.
“We have been really positive in terms of our playing style in the first seven games, and we have deservedly garnered respect for that. This is something that we need to continue doing.
“Just like before, compactness is an issue. These are the things that have cropped up over the first seven games and we want to work on them so we can continue to consistently pick up points with our style of play.
“Of course, want our fate to be in our own hands as we go into the winter break. I think we’ve done pretty well as a promoted side. Now it’s about continuing the development and if possible, building on the things that we did well in the first seven games, both in terms of performances and in terms of points.”
Daniel Farke: “Werder aren’t your typical promoted side, and they are a real bedrock of the Bundesliga. They have done really well so far; they have a good team spirit and are still full of confidence after last season. As a promoted team, they want to pick up points in their home games and a Saturday night clash under the floodlights certainly isn’t the worst occasion for that.
“I think Ole Werner has done a great job there. His side are clear about what they need to do and how they want to play. I like their northern mentality and we are full of respect for our opponents.
“It will be a really difficult but a really interesting test. It is paramount that we remain fully focussed, even in the difficult moments. It will be a tight game and our preparations weren’t ideal because of the international break. We need to show our resilience in games like these. The Weser Stadion can create some real energy and Werder are a very traditional club, you can feel that in every sense.
“But we became footballers in order to compete in fervent atmospheres. We are spurred on by the fact that we want to show our quality and we are very much looking forward to the game.”
17.09.22 Bayer Leverkusen (a) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
09.09.22 Augsburg (h) 0-1 L (Bundesliga)
03.09.22 Bochum (a) 0-2 W (Bundesliga)
28.08.22 Eintracht Frankfurt (h) 3-4 L (Bundesliga)
20.08.22 Borussia Dortmund (a) 2-3 W (Bundesliga)
17.09.22 RB Leipzig (h) 3-0 W (Bundesliga)
11.09.22 Freiburg (a) 0-0 D (Bundesliga)
04.09.22 Mainz (h) 0-1 L (Bundesliga)
27.08.22 Bayern Munich (a) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
19.08,22 Hertha Berlin (h) 1-0 W (Bundesliga)
Due to Werder’s season in the 2.Bundesliga the corresponding fixture last time out was back on the last matchday of the 2020-21 season when a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Mönchengladbach condemned the Grün-Weißen to the dreaded drop for the first time since 1980.
The writing was on the wall with a third minute Lars Stindl goal and the visitors were 4-0 with twenty minutes left. A mini fightback occurred with goals from Milot Rashica and Niclas Füllkrug, but it proved too little, too late for Werder.
Players to watch:
Germany’s problems in the striker department are well documented with Timo Werner continuing to struggle as an out-and-out number nine and Hansi Flick experimenting with Kai Havertz as a ‘false nine’ against England.
If Werder’s ‘real nine’ Niclas Füllkrug continues to bang the goals in the whispers for him to be a late inclusion to the World Cup squad may turn into louder shouts.
Marcus Thuram had been tipped by some for a summer exit from Borussia, but the form he has shown thus far this season has made his decision to stay all the more welcome for Fohlen fans. The club desperately want to sign a contract extension with the Frenchman, but alongside Yann Sommer and Ramy Bensebaini this has been fruitless so far. His continued good form will only attract other clubs to his talent.