Borussia Mönchengladbach trail namesake Dortmund by by just three points, are the second highest scoring team this term with a whopping 30 goals and have had the meanest backline in recent weeks, conceding just three times in their last five games. So will the Foals fizzle out further down the line, or are they genuine contenders to secure the Champions League qualifying spot come the end of the term? bundesliga.com takes a closer look…
It's no secret that the Borussia Park has been a fortress this season. Gladbach have dispatched six opponents in six home games so far, netting 20 times in the process. Even Dortmund had no answer to the Gladbach steamroller and the 2-0 scoreline was comparatively meagre. Eintracht Braunschweig and Eintracht Frankfurt both returned home nursing 4-1 defeats, while SV Werder Bremen, Hannover 96 and 1. FC Nürnberg all conceded three. Gladbach had been struggling on the road, although two trips in the first three games to Munich and Leverkusen did present a formidable challenge. That has now been rectified after Lucien Favre's men added to their first away win on Matchday 11 against Hamburger SV by beating VfB Stuttgart in the Mercedes-Benz Arena on Matchday 13.
For a defence missing influential centre-half Alvaro Dominguez and only sporadically able to call on veterans Roel Brouwers and Filip Daems, their 16 goals conceded so far is a remarkably feat. Gladbach's adaptibility has been key. Tony Jantschke and Martin Stranzl have been excellent in recent weeks, while 21-year-old Julian Korb has filled in at right-back with an assurance belying his youth. Additionally, they've got the highest scoring defender in the Bundesliga in Swede Oscar Wendt, who netted a stunner against Stuttgart. The virtually ever-present holding midfield pairing of Christoph Kramer and Granit Xhaka deserves credit too, providing a strong defensive shield with enviable consistency.
Adaptibility is one key component for a side hungry to feast at Europe's top table - but just as important is resilience. Gladbach have showed that in abundance this term and after those early losses to Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Bayern München, the Foals have only lost twice. Further evidence of their ability to cope with pressure was evident the 3-1 home win over 1. FC Nürnberg on Matchday 12. Despite going 1-0 down in the 21st minute to their compact visitors, Gladbach never let their heads drop and managed to turn the game around late on. That spirit, or Teamgeist as it is known on these shores, will be vital if Gladbach are to maintain their challenge.
Lucien Favre is another of the key ingredients to the club's upward trajectory and the Swiss tactician is no stranger to the upper echelons of the Bundesliga. In 2008/09 he led Hertha Berlin to an impressive fourth-place finish, before doing the same with Gladbach in 2011/12. While the side - deprived of a handful of players poached by league rivals - couldn't manage to reach the Champions League group stage proper after losing to FC Dynamo Kyiv last season, Favre clearly has his sights set on going one better this time with his rebuilt ensemble.
The current line-up is geared towards exploiting the devastating talents of Gladbach's irrepressible attacking quartet of Max Kruse, Raffael, Juan Arango and Patrick Herrmann. The former, signed from SC Freiburg over the summer, has an astonishing seven goals and seven assists already, while fellow newcomer Raffael has six goals and four assists. Arango, the wily veteran, and fleet-footed winger Herrmann have also made a considerable contribution to the team's goal haul - indeed 20 goals and 18 assists have come straight from one of the four so far in 2013/14. Impressive as those numbers are, it is the lightning-fast interplay and intuitive understanding that has had fans in raptures. Providing they stay injury-free, the chances are good that Gladbach will be Europe-bound next summer.