The new era at Borussia Mönchengladbach certainly got off to an eventful start last week with their opening 4-4 draw at FC Augsburg. Scoring four goals away from home is always a welcome thing, but letting slip a 3-1 first half lead not so much. The arrival of Rhine neighbours Bayer Leverkusen will provide another stern test for the Foals as they embark on life under new coach Gerardo Seoane.
The Swiss trainer will face his old club on Saturday with three points on the line as well as the chance to get one over on his former employees. Having led the Werkself to the Champions League in the 2021/22 season, he was sacked just eight league games into last season after an abject start saw Leverkusen sitting 17th in the table.
“It will definitely be an emotional game and one that’s very special to me, not just because we’re playing Leverkusen, but also because it’s our first home fixture in front of the fans this season” Seoane said this week.
The club’s new signings who played last week all made a good impression with Maximilian Wöber, Franck Honorat putting his good performances and striker Tomas Cvancara grabbing two goals (including a 97th minute equaliser via the penalty spot).
There will be a second reunion at the Borussia Park as Jonas Hofmann returns in a Leverkusen shirt to face his ex-club and it will be interesting to see what kind of reaction he gets. On the one hand he gave Gladbach eight years of service and was a real favourite, on the other hand he’s jumped ship and joined a local rival.
The visitors will be keen to show that last week’s win over Leipzig was no flash in the pan. The improvement last season under Xabi Alonso can be seen in the rise up the table from bottom two to finishing in the European places and being on the verge of making the Europa League final. Many observers expect a continued evolution at the club and a potential involvement in the title race.
Going to places like Mönchengladbach and getting a result will go a long way to giving credence to the optimism surrounding Leverkusen this season.
Aside from longer-term absentees Christoph Kramer and Manu Koné, there is positive news for Gerado Seoane. Max Wöber had a minor issue in training this week, but should be fit. Luca Netz is progressing well and could be in contention, while both Tomas Cvancara and Grant-Leon Ranos, who had issues this week in training, are both fit for Saturday’s match.
Possible line-up: Omlin – Scally, Itakura, Wöber – Honorat, Weigl, Neuhaus, Netz – Ngoumou, Plea – Cvancara
Amine Adli and Piero Hincapie are still serving suspensions carried over from last season. It’s conceivable that coach Alonso will keep faith with the same eleven who won the opener against Leipzig last week. A 4-2-3-1 formation is also possible with Adam Hlozek coming into the attack. The coach does have options at fullback with Arthur and new signing Josip Stanisic, which could see Jeremie Frimpong pushed into a more advanced role.
Possible line-up: Hradecky – Kossounou, Tah, Tapsoba – Frimpong, Palacios, G. Xhaka, Grimaldo – Hofmann, Wirtz – Boniface
What they’re saying:
Gerardo Seoane: “We’ve drawn a number of conclusions from this game [v Augsburg]. For example, we failed to hold onto the ball for long periods in Augsburg and didn’t manage to find a good balance between sharp incisive play and long balls. There also some defensive things we can improve on. We’ve often said before: It’s going to be a lengthy process for us because we have a young team. Consequently, we’re able to take away important things from every single game that are crucial for our development.
“Leverkusen made some good signings in the summer – their team is very cohesive and they played well in the second half of last season. It’s difficult to create chances against them, because they have a good mix of physicality, pace, and technical ability, as well as an exemplary level of team cohesion.
“It’s obviously great when the fans can give the team momentum from the sidelines. In Augsburg, our players felt their energy and channelled it into their performance on the pitch – the fans are ultimately our twelfth man. It’s important for us to improve on certain aspects of our game and change the negative emotions into positive ones.”
Xabi Alonso: “We are looking forward to the second matchday with anticipation. Of course we want to put our best performance and playing style on the pitch. We know about the rivalry between us. It will be an intense and emotional game.
“It will be a special game for Jonas [Hofmann]. He has a history with Gladbach, it will be something special for him. But in the 90 minutes of play there is no friendship. Jonas is a professional, he will do everything for us.
“Josip Stanisic has the game intelligence for different positions and can be set up flexibly. I was impressed by his personality in the first talks. He has trained well and will be there tomorrow.”
19/08/23 Augsburg (a) 4-4 D (Bundesliga)
11/08/23 TuS Bersenbrück (a) 0-7 W (DFB Pokal)
05/08/23 Montpellier (h) 2-2 D (Friendly)
29/07/23 VfB Stuttgart (a) 1-5 W (Friendly)
29/07/23 1860 Munich (h) 2-1 W (Friendly)
19/08/23 RB Leipzig (h) 3-2 W (Bundesliga)
12/08/23 Teutonia Otensen (a) 0-8 W (DFB Pokal)
05/08/23 West Ham (h) 4-0 W (Friendly)
02/08/23 Marseille (a) 1-2 W (Friendly)
29/07/23 Real Sociedad (a) 1-0 L (Friendly)
The corresponding fixture at the Borussia Park last season came on matchday 16 with Leverkusen emerging with a 3-2 win despite a late comeback from the Foals. With Florian Wirtz making his long-awaited comeback from injury, the visitors went into a 3-0 lead with goals from Mitchell Bakker, Amine Adli and Amine Amiri on goalkeeper Jonas Omlin’s debut.
Two late replies from captain Lars Stindl made things interesting, but he home side couldn’t find a third and saw their rivals leave with the points.
Players to watch:
After scoring a brace on his debut last week away at Augsburg, the home faithful at the Borussia Park will be hoping to see more goals this weekend from new Czech signing Tomas Cvancara. He kept his nerve in the 97th minute at the WWK Arena to slot home the penalty equaliser and a scoring home debut would be the dream start to his Bundesliga career.
All eyes will be on Jonas Hofmann as he makes an almost instant return to the Borussia Park with his new club.
“I hope that many people will look at the positive aspects of the seven and a half years and not overlook this one moment. Unfortunately, that’s the case for a lot of people who think that this is more important than seven and a half years. But everyone can decide for themselves. I take it as it comes.
“It may be a bit emotional, but in a positive way. It’s nice to be back at my old stomping grounds. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone again. For me it’s pure anticipation.”