Preview: FC Bayern München – Gladbach
Between the quarter-finals of the Champions League and the DFB Cup semi-finals, FC Bayern will play Borussia Mönchengladbach. After the Bavarians made the championship clear last week in Augsburg, the focus is now on the cup competitions. However, the Bundesliga should not be neglected. After the previous early championships, the team could not always maintain its best form as the tension in the Bundesliga dropped.
Jupp Heynckes will make sure to change that though. As almost the entire team is available at the moment, competition for starting positions in the important matches is fierce. Jupp Heynckes will certainly rotate against his hometown club to spare players, to give practice to others or to allow players to present themselves with a good performance as an alternative. Especially players like Martinez or Lewandowski, who both took a lot against Sevilla, will probably get a break against Gladbach to heal their wounds.
However, it is currently questionable whether the competition will really come about. Too many of the players in the starting eleven are in top form or simply have no competition. Jupp Heynckes is unlikely to risk bringing the inexperienced Niklas Süle to an important Champions League semi-final instead of Mats Hummels or Jerome Boateng. Also players like Juan Bernat, Sebastian Rudy or Corentin Tolisso are not realistic alternative for the initial formation.
However, it will be exciting in midfield. Arturo Vidal, Thiago, James and Thomas Müller fight for two free places in front of Javi Martinez. Thomas Müller also has the opportunity, as in the first leg in Sevilla, to play on the right and thus put pressure on Arjen Robben.
Jupp Heynckes faces the great challenge of keeping the tension high in the Bundesliga as well. The Bavarians know from experience that it is difficult to be back to 100% at the touch of a button when you play with your hand brake on at the weekend. To prevent this, Jupp Heynckes will have to rotate, but at the same time give his best players enough time to keep them in rhythm. Jupp Heynckes did very well in 2013. Whether he will succeed this year as well remains to be seen.
It is a well-known fact that FC Bayern has a hard time against Borussia Mönchengladbach. Of the last ten games, the Bavarians won five, two ended in draws and three games were won by the Gladbach team. Dieter Hecking’s team won the only clash so far this season with 2:1.
In a rather mixed season, the Gladbach team is currently eighth with 40 points. Six points behind the sixth-placed Leipzig team. Especially at the beginning of the second half of the season Gladbach had to struggle with a form crisis and only won one of their first five games. Even after that, the results did not really stabilize. Against Hertha BSC they were superior and finally managed to fight their way to a late victory. The week before, however, they could only manage a 0:0 against a relegation candidate from Mainz.
Dieter Hecking’s team recently had to struggle with some injury worries and only slowly are most top performers like Dennis Zakaria, Raffael or Christoph Kramer fit again.
You can’t shake the feeling that the Borussia team hasn’t yet reached its limits. The last years were too successful under Lucien Favre and in parts under André Schubert. Under Dieter Hecking there is a certain calm around the Borussia, but the team remains behind expectations. With this squad you should fight even more seriously for a place in the Europa League.
Since Dieter Hecking took over at Borussia Mönchengladbach, the team has developed back into a team that wants to become dangerous with a compact defence and fast counterplay. Especially against teams, which are individually superior, the Gladbacher usually have little ball possession.
For the longest time the Gladbacher played in the well-known 4-4-2. Dieter Hecking changed something only in the last few games and experimented partly with very interesting formations. These experiments were primarily due to the amount of players injured. Against the TSG from Hoffenheim one could observe a 3-4-3 with a diamond in the center. In this game the Gladbacher showed a good possession game, but were susceptible in the defensive. Against Mainz and Hertha, Hecking also relied on a triple chain in the last line.
Against Bayern it will be interesting to see how Dieter Hecking sends his team onto the pitch. It is quite possible that the Gladbacher will try again to paralyze the offensive game of the Bavarians through their compact 4-4-2 and try to hit them quickly on the counterattack.
In addition to the 4-4-2, it is also possible that the Gladbacher will act against the ball with a five-chain and try to close the center with a 5-3-2 as they did against Hoffenheim.
Borussia is known to have a very interesting squad with some special types of players. For years, a lot of small agile players have been on the offensive. Particularly in the attacking center, which was formed last week by Lars Stindl and Raffael, the Gladbacher have very play-strong and pressing-resistant players.
The captain Lars Stindl belongs to the players at Gladbach, who are also interesting to watch for every neutral fan. Stindl is part of the extended circle of the national team and has every right to hope for a place at the World Cup in Russia. The Gladbacher is distinguished by his outstanding playing intelligence, his abilities under pressure and especially by his creative passes. However, the captain is missing at the weekend due to a yellow barrier.
Additionally, in the absence of Kramer and Zakaria, Mickael Cuisance has played himself to the forefront in recent weeks. Cuisance, for his age, has already controlled the offensive game from six very skillfully and, in contrast to Kramer and Zakaria, knew how to play more often. However, he still revealed weaknesses on the defensive. At only 18, he is once again a good example of the successful and efficient work of sports director Max Eberl.
For the Bavarians it will be decisive to come over the wings with speed and to occupy the half spaces well. That was one of the greatest strengths of the last few weeks. With James and Müller/Thiago, the half-spaces were always the starting point for good attacks.
Especially against the Gladbacher it is important not to be pushed too much on the wing, because these attacks are often easy to defend. Good counter-pressing will also be necessary to nip the Gladbach counter-presses in the bud. A good preparation for the upcoming tasks in the Champions League.
Heynckes will probably give players like Rudy or Tolisso some time to play, given the past Champions League match against Sevilla. Especially for Tolisso it will be a difficult game again. The Frenchman is not yet the safest player under pressure, but he will have to move a lot between the Gladbach lines or try to crack them with passes. Tolisso will have to improve in both areas if he is to be a long-term candidate for the first team.
The match against Gladbach can be a good preparation for the Champions League for FC Bayern. Especially in terms of counter avoidance, the Bavarians will be challenged against Dieter Hecking’s team.