Mönchengladbach - Despite the opportunity for FC Bayern Munich to break the 90-point barrier away to Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday (kick-off 15:30 CET), the Bavarians' incessant record-breaking won't be taking centre stage this weekend.
Instead it will be Bayern's soon to be erstwhile coach Jupp Heynckes who will dominate the headlines, regardless of the performance or scoreline.
The game marks the veteran strategist's last in the Bundesliga, and the opponent makes it all the more special for the 68-year-old. “Mönchengladbach is my home city,” he said. “I started my playing career in Mönchengladbach and grew up there, and then I had the chance to go into coaching. This is no ordinary game for me.”
“It is like a film: it is in Mönchengladbach, where I became a professional footballer at the age of 19, and then coached, that my story comes to an end.” Heynckes can expect a warm welcome from a sold-out Borussia Park crowd, as well as from his Gladbach counterpart Lucien Favre. “His career has been amazing,” said the Swiss coach. “You can see his hand at work on this Bayern side, it's all been down to him.”
Saturday’s game is also a homecoming of sorts for Bayern defender Dante, who left Gladbach for Bavaria last summer. The 29-year-old has been practically an ever-present in the Bayern side this season, gaining his first Brazil caps in the process. Nevertheless, he still feels a strong bond with his former employers, whom he represented 93 times between 2009 and 2012.
“Of course it’s something very special,” he said on his club’s website. “I’m really looking forward to seeing many friends and fans again. Gladbach still has a place in my heart,” he said. However, for 90 minutes, that sentimentality will be put to one side, as Dante focuses on collecting a 29th league victory this term. “It’s a game like any other. We always want to win and keep our foot down. Things won’t be any different in Gladbach.”
Rotate or not to rotate is the conundrum Heynckes faces for the final episode in his Bundesliga coaching career. In the side's last competitive match before the UEFA Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund, he must decide whether to field his strongest XI in order to maintain their rhythm, or to rest key players to aviod injury.
Favre, meanwhile, will once again place his faith in hat-trick hero Branimir Hrgota. “It’s difficult to put a player who has scored three goals back on the bench,” he said. “He’s probably going to start.” That leaves Luuk de Jong, a member of Holland’s under-21 squad for next month’s European Championships in Israel, to keep the bench warm, while Alvaro Dominguez is unlikely to feature due to a groin injury.
Gladbach: ter Stegen - Jantschke, Stranzl, Alvaro Dominguez, Daems - Nordtveit, Xhaka - Herrmann, Arango - Hanke, Hrgota
Bayern: Neuer - Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba - Javi Martinez, Schweinsteiger - Robben, Müller, Ribery - Mandzukic