The derby on Saturday will either give Borussia Mönchengladbach the chance to make amends for their appalling result against Werder Bremen last weekend or it will heap more woe upon die Fohlen in a season that was going so well.
Last week’s 5-1 hammering at the Weser Stadion ran against the grain of previous form with the team having drawn at the Allianz Arena and taken RB Leipzig apart in a 4-0 win that could have been higher. Daniel Farke’s system and way of playing was gaining fans and Gladbach looked to be a team to watch this season.
Then came the Bremen performance where defensively they were far from Bundesliga quality and the problem of converting the chances they created raised its head again. Was the result a blip or a sign of the beginning of something more worrying? Coach Farke said it was better to lose 5-1 once that 1-0 five times and he has a point, but the visit of traditional rivals Köln will provide a stern test both of system and character.
Preparations have been hampered somewhat with trainer Daniel Farke testing positive for Corona virus and training having to be taken by assistant Edmund Riemer, but it though the coach will be able to take his place in the technical area on Sunday.
Köln also suffered their own blip in midweek with a Europa Conference League defeat to Partizan with coach Steffen Baumgart’s decision to rotate his team backfiring somewhat. That result came on the back of a highly impressive win last weekend over Borussia Dortmund and the thought of beating Dortmund and Gladbach over consecutive weekends will be spurring the Billy Goats on.
Köln will also be boosted by the fact that they have won on their last two visits to the Borussia Park for the derby and actually did the double over Gladbach last season. They have to go back to 1982 for the last time they won three in a row in Mönchengladbach, so they have that achievement to aim for.
Ramy Bensebaini was unable to train in the week due to an infection, but it is hoped he will recover for Sunday. Alassane Plea will be given every chance to show that his muscle problem has cleared up but is more likely to start on the bench. Joe Scally might see his place at right back taken by Stefan Lainer.
Ko Itakura, Florian Neuhaus and Hannes Wolf all remain longer-term absentees
Possible line-up: Sommer, Lainer, Friedrich, Elvedi, Bensebaini, Weigl, Koné, Hofmann, Kramer, Stindl, Thuram
After the rotation (seven changes) in midweek backfired, it should be back to a more settled line-up for the derby. Jan Thielmann is out with a virus, while the only other absentees are all known about (Sebastian Andersson, Jeff Chabot, Mathias Olesen). Mark Uth will continue his comeback on the bench.
Possible line-up: Schwäbe, Schmitz, Kilian, Hübers, Hector, Skhiri, Ljubicic, Duda, Kainz, Tigges, Maina
What they’re saying:
Daniel Farke: “I know that this is one of the most important games of the year for the fans and for the club. There is a certain explosiveness and emotion attached to this game. I don’t want to look back on the games that I wasn’t a part of. I haven’t lost a derby with Borussia, and I want it to stay that way on Sunday. We need to be good all over the pitch in order to do that.
“These are the games that remind you of why you started playing football in the first place. You were always just up for winning games with your teammates. And that’s what a derby feels like. The table means nothing when it comes to matchday. It comes down to giving it absolutely everything in order to win the game. In my opinion, there are no favourites in a derby. Both teams are totally focussed, and we want it to go our way.
“You have to give Steffen Baumgart huge credit for the excellent job he is doing in Köln. His team are playing his way and they are very hard to beat. They have made a good start to the season. We are going into the game with the necessary respect because we know that Köln have lots of fighting spirit, energy, and intensity. It will be a difficult challenge, but it would be boring if derbies were easy. I think it will be a tight match and we are looking forward to it.”
Steffen Baumgart: “We don’t take it as an A and B team. We know that Hector and Skhiri have different qualities than the guys who were out there today [v Partizan]. I made my decision consciously and made it right. That’s why I’m the coach and nobody else. I will continue to make these decisions – and the fans support them. We won’t talk about an A and B because we don’t have an A and B.
“We will have a different line-up against Mönchengladbach, and I expect a passionate game. It will be just as intense, and I hope that it will be peaceful. Both teams will put everything into it. I’m looking forward to it.”
01.10.22 Werder Bremen (a) 5-1 L (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)
06.10.22 Partizan Belgrade (h) 0-1 L (Conference League)
01.10.22 Borussia Dortmund (h) 3-2 W (Bundesliga)
18.09.22 VfL Bochum (a) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
15.09.22 FC Slovacko (h) 4-2 W (Conference League)
11.09.22 Union Berlin (h) 0-1 L (Bundesliga)
The corresponding fixture last season came on matchday 30, and it was the visitors Köln who took the glory on derby day. Three goals in the first half stunned the Borussia Park with Anthony Modeste, Florian Kainz and Dejan Ljubicic doing the damage. A Breel Embolo consolation in the 85th minute did little to cheer the home fans, who had to suffer a second defeat of the season to their Rhine rivals.
Players to watch:
If attacker Marcus Thuram could convert all the chances that come his way, he would be on Robert Lewandowski type figures for the season. He has however already bettered his figures from last season with four goals and three assists.
The way Ellyes Skhiri controls the game and is the key link between defence and attack often goes under the radar, but his importance to the Köln team cannot be underestimated. If he is allowed to determine the flow of the game a third derby victory in succession could be on the cards.