Borussia Monchengladbach vs FC Koln
As Bundesliga matches go, this should be a home banker. It’s fourth versus 14th in the table.
But of course, games like this are not always as straightforward as they may appear – a Rhine derby rarely is!
Monchengladbach are slipping
When I said a few weeks ago that I expected champions Bayern Munch to retain their crown this season and overcome their title challengers, I expected it would take a few months.
That they have returned to the summit quite so quickly is partly down to Monchengladbach last weekend.
They held previous leaders RB Leipzig to a 2-2 draw and may have won had Alassane Plea not been sent off in the second half after earlier opening the scoring.
That dismissal eventually cost the Foals as they were denied a win when a late screamer from Christopher Nkunku flew past Yann Sommer.
That means he will miss out in this one but does not detract from a showing which indicated they may sustain their challenge in the second half of the campaign.
Leading scorer Plea is likely to be replaced this weekend by Swiss striker Breel Embolo, who actually netted the only goal in the reverse fixture in September.
Midfielder Christoph Kramer suffered a slight concussion in the Leipzig game and was withdrawn which makes the 2014 World Cup winner a major doubt for the derby.
If Kramer does miss out, Lars Stindl or Patrick Herrmann could return to the starting XI.
No love lost between Koln and Gladbach
Koln are 14th and have just two away wins on the road this term.
In fact, it’s only a fortnight since they were hammered 5-1 at Borussia Dortmund as the Erling Haaland story gained a new chapter, so they are naturally not favourites against another of the leading sides this term.
Yet Markus Gisdol’s side are generally one of the Bundesliga’s in-form teams at the moment with four wins out of five – the reverse at Dortmund their sole defeat during that mini-run.
Indeed, Koln have won five of their last six Bundesliga matches. Only defending champions Bayern have fared better by taking maximum points in that time.
A strike from Jhon Cordoba last weekend made it four goals in four matches for the Colombian and he is likely to be part of an unchanged team for the hour-long trip north to Mönchengladbach.
As an aside, two interesting factors to observe in this one.
Watch out this weekend for Anthony Modeste who has had a direct hand in seven of Cologne’s nine Bundesliga goals in games against Gladbach.
And also look closely at set plays.
Gladbach have only conceded one goal from corners this season, but Cologne have scored seven times from such situations. Only Eintracht Frankfurt have had more luck from corners with nine goals.
This will be the 90th Bundesliga meeting between the Rhine rivals and it is the third-most contested local derby in Germany.
If you wanted an indication of how little love is lost between these two, just cast your mind back a few seasons.
“Putting it in somewhat exaggerated terms, we can get relegated but we must not lose against Koln,” stated Gladbach’s Norwegian midfielder Havard Nordtveit.
“For our fans, this is the match of the year,” added Koln’s Jonas Hector.
No wonder the Rhine derby often produces Bundesliga highlights. Now its time for some more.
Gladbach have recorded more wins (49) and scored more goals (175) against Cologne than any other Bundesliga club.
Interestingly, Cologne’s 24 defeats to Gladbach on home soil are the most losses to a single team in the club’s history on their own turf. They have also conceded more Bundesliga goals (92), more penalties (18), and gone behind to their arch-rivals more times than to any other team.
Last season, this fixture produced one goal and a home win with Nico Elvedi scoring four minutes into the second half.
Yet Koln will have happier memories of the clash two seasons ago when a last-gasp Marcel Risse goal clinched a 2-1 win, this after Modeste had cancelled out Stindl’s opener for the home side.
That was their first win on Monchengladbach turf since 1992.