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Borussia Monchengladbach

Labbadia’s return, Borussia bouncing back? – Bundesliga Talking Points

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It’s taken a while – a whole summer, in fact – but it’s finally back. That’s right, fans of the Bundesliga were finally treated to a full weekend of top class football for the first time since May, and with another week following hot on its heels, there are a number of talking points.

The weekend already gone contained two games watched widely by football fans around the globe as champions of the last three seasons, FC Bayern, took on the spectacularly woeful Hamburger SV and Borussia Dortmund faced up with Borussia Mönchengladbach. However, with seven other matches taking place, fans of the league enjoyed further entertaining games and with a weekend without a particularly huge game for the neutral on the horizon, it’s probably worth being in the loop about some of the league’s other clubs.

Hoffenheim – Ready for Bigger Things?

Since their struggling against relegation a few years ago – going into a match against Dortmund needing a result to stay up – Hoffenheim have improved manyfold. The likes of Roberto Firmino and Kevin Volland pushed the club onto very comfortable mid-table finishes in consecutive seasons under now-coach Markus Gisdol, and Hoffenheim look set for even better.

They lost at the weekend, play Bayern next, and have lost their talisman in Firmino this summer, so this may be an odd time to say this, but things do look like they’re on the up for the Sinsheim-based club. With fairer fixtures in the coming weeks, and a ridiculously strong transfer in which they signed the likes of Fabian Schär, Pavel Kaderabek, Jonathan Schmid, Mark Uth and Joelinton – plus, oddly, Kevin Kuranyi – while making a huge profit too, Hoffenheim should at least show signs that this year could be the year in which they push on for Europe. A good performance against Bayern would certainly be a great indicator of a strong season ahead, especially given that very little will be expected of them even if they’ve given Bayern a somewhat tough time in recent years.

Bayern themselves head into the game somewhat buoyed by the past few weeks as they opened the season with a 5-0 win. Okay, so it was against HSV and they would usually win by more, but the strong showing of new signing Douglas Costa should prove a good omen for Bayern’s season – adding a more direct option for Guardiola’s men up on the wings – while Arturo Vidal has started life in a Bayern shirt well too.

Ultimately though success for Bayern will only be judged through a strong showing in the Champions League given that they’ve won the title at a canter the past three years. Nonetheless, it’ll be interesting to see how this Bayern team fares against a remotely competent side.

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Darmstadt’s Fairytale

We’ve had Fürth, we’ve had Braunschweig, and we’ve had Paderborn. None of them have been given much of a chance by fans or pundits alike, and probably for good reason. None of the clubs have had the resources to sustain a realistic challenge. Enter Darmstadt stage right.

A few years ago, Darmstadt were relegated to Germany’s fourth tier but were saved at the last minute by Offenbach’s insolvency losing them their license for the 3. Liga; Darmstadt stayed up in their place. The next season, Darmstadt pushed on, storming to third place in the 3. Liga and playing Arminia Bielefeld in probably the most exciting relegation play-off since the introduction of the format in 2009 from a neutral perspective. They followed this up last season with another successive promotion, this time automatically as they finished in second behind Ingolstadt. One might perhaps expect them to continue the series of 3rd, 2nd with a 1st placed finish, but it’d be ridiculous to even harbour thoughts of them finishing 15th.

Even so, there’s a lot to like about a club that, last time they were in the Bundesliga in the 1980s, employed players with day jobs in a by-then professionalised league, and are nowadays managed by Dirk Schuster, better known as a player but also a very tactically competent manager who’s completely football managered the life out of the club. To put it into perspective, Darmstadt are a fairytale like Bournemouth would be if they weren’t owned by Russian investors pumping money into the club and being linked with highly paid Premier League players like Jermain Defoe.

As for last weekend, Darmstadt probably deserved three points, with Marcel Heller scoring two incredible goals on the break and saving a penalty but eventually succumbed to Hannover’s Bundesliga quality with a Charlison Benschop goal and, after Heller’s second, an Aytac Sulu own-goal consigned die Lilien to a draw.

Their opponents this week, Schalke, are enjoying a new lease of life having won two games in a row comfortably under new coach Andre Breitenreiter. Breitenreiter managed Paderborn last year so will know what Dirk Schuster is up against as he clashes with one of the clubs with the best resources in the league, but fingers crossed that Schuster doesn’t have to thank the “experience” of playing one of the league’s bigger clubs having been battered.

Borussia bouncing back?

The story of the weekend was, no doubt, Borussia smashing Borussia, however, as Thomas Tuchel’s Dortmund started well and never relented in a 4-0 win over Mönchengladbach. It was arguably Dortmund’s best performance in two years, whereas a first half in which Gladbach ended up 3-0 down was their worst under Lucien Favre and worst as a club since May 2010.

However Mönchengladbach have enjoyed a brilliant 2015 so far and it’s no coincidence that they finished the Rückrunde of last season with a runaway lead. Dortmund away is a very tough game, especially with the home side having played a few more competitive games in the Europa League, and you’d imagine they’ll bounce back. Their first chance to do so is at home to Mainz on Sunday.

Mainz also, of course, need to come back from another loss – in their case a narrow one to newly-promoted Ingolstadt – so it should be an interesting clash. The last game between the clubs, both with Swiss managers of course with Mainz employing Martin Schmidt, ended 2-2 in Mainz as Raffael led the Foals into a 2-0 lead and Geis and Okazaki – now playing elsewhere – destroyed the deficit.

A key area for improvement will be in the midfield. Against Dortmund, it looked like Granit Xhaka and Lars Stindl had never even met each other, and this exposed the youthful partnership of Marvin Schulz and Andreas Christensen in defence, with the 20-year old and 19-year old respectively both making their Bundesliga debuts.

Labbadia’s clash with his old club

Saturday’s Toppspiel this week sets all eyes on Hamburg again as Bruno Labbadia takes on his old club, VfB Stuttgart. Potentially not the most interesting game from a neutral viewpoint, at least on view of the table in recent years as both have been right near the bottom recently.

Hamburg remain a bit of a shambles having been knocked out of the DFB-Pokal by Jena, but Stuttgart appear to be on the up with a very strong game against Köln last week being undone by some poor goalkeeping by Przemyslaw Tyton and some clinical play by their opponents. Again, though, the performance was excellent and it’s a step towards having a better year under new coach Alex Zorniger, and to be quite frank, HSV should be there for the taking.


 

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Conor is a lifelong fan of Swindon Town. He hosts Dreierpack Podcast, a podcast about the Bundesliga, and writes about Borussia Mönchengladbach for the Bundesliga Fanatic.

Borussia Monchengladbach

Borussia Monchengladbach vs Fiorentina: Match Preview, likely line-ups and score prediction

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The Europa League is back for the start of it’s Round of 32 ties this Thursday, and this is one of the mouth-watering ties coming from Europe, as two-time winners of the old UEFA Cup Borussia Monchengladbach of the Bundesliga, take on Fiorentina of Serie A, whose only European title was the Old Cup Winners’ Cup back in 1961.

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‘Gladbach dropped into the competition after finishing third in their Champion League group behind Barcelona and Manchester City, whilst Fiorentina progressed from the Europa League group stages after topping Group J ahead of Greek club PAOK Salonika, Azeri outfit Qarabag, and Czech side Slovan Liberec. The Italians won four, drew once and lost once on the way to progression.

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Recent form

German club ‘Gladbach are enjoying an unbeaten run of five matches in all competitions in 2017, winning each of their last four and currently lying 10th in the Bundesliga table, and so will go into their home leg with Fiorentina in encouraging form. They did, however, fail to win any of their three home fixtures in the Champions League group phase on the way to finishing third and dropping into the Europa League.

Meanwhile, Fiorentina have been shaky on the road in recent months, with just two wins in their last six away games in all competitions, losing the other four. Their away form in Europe has faired slightly better, however, with two victories and a draw coming in their three away matches in the Europa League group phase. Their one loss on the way to topping the group was a 2-3 reverse at home to PAOK.

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Predicted line-ups

‘Gladbach are expected to stick to the 4-4-2 formation implemented by Dieter Hecking that has seen them start 2017 unbeaten. With forward Raffael doubtful for the first-leg, Lars Stindl and Andre Hahn are in line to replace him, with the former the likelier to get the not to start alongside Thorgan Hazard (brother of Chelsea’s Eden), in attack. On-loan Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen is set to start at the heart of the defence.

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Paulo Sousa is expected to deploy his side in a defensive 3-4-2-1 formation, with Khouma Babacar likely to get the nod to start as the lone forward ahead of Nikola Kalinic, having been widely used throughout their Europa League games this season. January signing Riccardo Saponara is expected to be handed his European debut in attacking midfield alongside Federico Bernadeschi. On-loan Aston Villa man Carlos Sánchez is expected to start in the midfield four despite being one booking away from suspension.

Borussia M.Gladbach predicted starting XI            Fiorentina predicted starting XI

 

Injuries/suspensions

Raffael remains a doubt for ‘Gladbach after having sat out their last two games, with Jonas Hofmann also rated doubtful for the clash with La Viola. Indeed, the Germans have had several injury problems to contend with coming into this one, with Kolo, Ibrahima Traore, Marvin Schulz and Mamadou Doucoure all on the treatment table. Mahmoud Dahoud is expected to start, but is one booking away from suspension and will miss the away leg at Stadio Artemio Franchi if he is carded here.

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Fiorentina’s only expected absentee is Federico Chiesa, who sits out the first-leg trip to Germany after carrying over a suspension from the group stages. Meanwhile, Carlos Sánchez is one booking away from suspension and although expected to feature, a booking at Borussia Park would see him out of the return leg in Florence.

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Our prediction

‘Gladbach’s recent upturn in form under Dieter Hecking is cause for encouragement, and they will be striving to pick up their first win at home in a European proper competition this season. With Fiorentina’s rocky away form in mind, there are always goals in their games, with over 2.5 goals going in during each of La Viola’s last five in the competition, the Italians netting at least two in all of those games.

Their most difficult away assignment in the group stages saw them pick up a point at PAOK, but we expected Fiorentina’s struggles to continue against an in-form side who should finally get off the mark at home in Europe this season. Our call is Borussia Monchengladbach 2-1 Fiorentina.

 

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Five things we learnt from Celtic and Manchester City’s 3-3 thriller

Martyn Cooke

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Celtic and Manchester City played out a thrilling 3-3 draw in Matchday Two of the Champions League group stage on Wednesday evening in a wonderfully thrilling night of European football in Glasgow.

The result ended Pep Guardiola’s 100% record as Manchester City manager, which has seen The Blues win all ten of the Spaniard’s previous matches in charge so far this season, and helped Celtic to bounce back from the heavy defeat that they suffered to Barcelona earlier this month.

For Brendan Rodgers, it looks increasing likely that he will need to content himself with competing for third place in Group C but this contest will certainly live long in the memory and demonstrated tentative signs that the former Liverpool and Swansea City manager has the Scottish Champions moving in the right direction.

Over the next few pages, we have included five things we learnt from the night’s proceedings.

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Celtic can match anyone when they play at Parkhead

The atmosphere generated by the Celtic supporters at Parkhead on Wednesday evening was loud, raucous and, at times, deafening. From the moment that Dembélé opened the scoring early in the first period of the game, you sensed that this would be a special, picturesque European night under the floodlights and, for long periods, the home side more than matched their illustrious opponents.

Celtic have yet to win on their travels Champions League this campaign, having lost three and draw one of their four away ties so far, but at Parkhead, they look like they can go toe to toe with any side in Europe.

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Three things we learnt from Man City’s 4-0 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach

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All eyes were on the Etihad Stadium last night as Manchester City attempted to carry their scintillating start to the season under Pep Guardiola into the Champions League as they faced Borussia Monchengladbach.

The fixture was originally scheduled for Tuesday evening but, with the typically erratic Manchester weather rendering the pitch a virtual swamp, the match officials were given no other option but to postpone the game and rearrange it for 24 hours later.

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Despite the inconvenience caused for the German club’s supporters, most of whom would have had return flights booked for the Wednesday, they still turned up in their numbers to cheer on their side. Sadly, their loyalty was not rewarded as Andre Schubert’s side were convincingly swept aside by City, who continue their 100 per cent record under their new manager.

The 4-0 scoreline was matched by yet another impressive performance from a City side that appear to be buying into Guardiola’s ideas much quicker than many had expected.

Here are three things we learnt from the game…

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