Euro 2020 Special

Bundesliga: Borussia Monchengladbach -Pretender or Contender?

They are having their best season for a generation and, as it stands, remained on the fringes of the Bundesliga title race when the season was brought to a dramatic halt.

Was this expected? Well, perhaps to a degree.

After all, the five-time Bundesliga champions narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification last term under Dieter Hecking.

On the other hand, this was a team which had finished the previous two campaigns in ninth place.

It didn’t start well as new coach Marco Rose, who had never lost a home game in charge of a professional team, saw his new side draw 0-0 draw against Schalke and lose 3-1 RB Leipzig in the first two matches at Borussia-Park.

However, five wins from the opening seven games, in fact, saw Borussia Monchengladbach go top of the table and remain there for eight matchdays – their longest stint in first place since the club last won the title in 1976/77.

They’ve rarely looked back since and are on course for what sporting director Max Eberl said was the goal at the start of the season – to qualify for Europe.

Realistically, a top-four finish is the ultimate target with Rose, who had secured back-to-back titles in Austria, guiding them there until football was suspended three weeks ago.

So, could they be actual title contenders as opposed to pretenders?

The SBOTOP Bundesliga picks suggests not.

They are currently six points behind leaders Bayern Munich and have just lost at home to Borussia Dortmund.

Yet they have already created plenty of Bundesliga highlights, beating the champions along the way so are certainly capable of causing a surprise.

Interestingly, that was the last time Munich were beaten and they have just announced the extension of head coach Hansi Flick’s contract today, a deal which ties him to the Bundesliga champions until June 2023.

In truth, ‘Gladbach can look back with pride at how they strengthened their attack and defence last summer as the foundations.

They made the short hop across the border to France for Marcus Thuram and left-back Ramy Bensebaini. Son of 1998 World Cup winner Lilian, the former joined from relegated Guingamp and has added another dimension to the Borussia frontline alongside fellow new forward Breel Embolo, who arrived from Bundesliga rivals Schalke. Together they have a combined 13 goals and 11 assists.

Marcus Thuram have provided Borussia Monchengladbach 6 goals and 8 assists in his first year in Bundesliga
Marcus Thuram fights for the ball against Koln’s Kinglsey Ehizibue

While Bensebaini stepped into the spotlight with a match-winning brace against Bayern, perhaps more crucial to the team’s defensive stability was the signing of right-back Stefan Lainer, who followed Rose from Red Bull Salzburg and has quietly gone about his business.

And then there’s goalkeeper Yann Sommer who seems to be inspired every time I cover a Monchengladbach game.

The Switzerland international has played every minute of the campaign and made more saves than any goalkeeper in the league. Those 97 stops represent 76 per cent of all shots he’s faced, which is also the best rate of all first-choice keepers (minimum 10 games) and helped form the base of the division’s third-best defence behind Bayern and Leipzig. That base has allowed the likes of Thuram and Alassane Plea to flourish at the other end.

Although he hasn’t featured over the past three months, Laszlo Benes is also worthy of mention.

The Slovakian international claimed a league-best four assists from free-kicks in his opening 10 appearances.

If play does resume a few months from now, a visit to Bayern is, on paper, the hardest task remaining for Rose’s side, as well as back-to-back games against Eintracht Frankfurt and Leverkusen.

Of their other six remaining matches, only two are against sides in the top half of the table so a surge beyond fourth spot is not out of the question.

Whether or not they can push up the table further (and I don’t think they can this term), even staying in fourth spot would be a fine achievement.

There will be some neutrals willing on The Foals and the respect has grown in recent weeks after they became the first professional club in Germany where players voluntarily offered to sacrifice part of their salary, with coach Rose and the club directors following suit – this in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Borussia Monchengladbach are, it seems, making the right noises both on and off the pitch.




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