It’s almost 25 years since the Foals last beat their Rhine rivals on home soil in the Bundesliga and head coach Lucien Favre knows all too well that ending the hex will be anything but easy.
“It's time we beat Leverkusen," Gladbach’s head coach told journalists on Wednesday. “They’re a strong side and break really well when they win possession. They are particularly dangerous down the flanks through Heung Min Son and Sidney Sam. The full-backs also play very high up the pitch and look to get in behind the back four."
Leverkusen’s roaming cut-throats proved their mettle last time out, coming from a goal down at home to VfB Stuttgart to record their first win since Matchday 15. Gladbach, however, had no such luck away at Hannover 96 and now face the additional challenge of having to dust themselves down from back-to-back Bundesliga defeats for the first time since May 2013.
'Quality is there'
"We have to stay calm,” Favre explained when pressed on his side’s purported slump. “We've lost twice and certainly haven't played as well as we can, but we have to be realistic and rein in our expectations. Teams have had time to analyse our game, so now it’s up to us to find the solutions. We've got the quality. We collected 33 points during the first half of the season, after all."
Indeed, just because Gladbach haven’t managed a win since beating FC Schalke 04 2-1 does not mean Leverkusen head coach Sami Hyypiä will be taking Friday’s short trip to fortress Borussia for granted. “Gladbach are a strong side and they’re really tough to beat on their own patch,” said the Finn. “But we shouldn’t bother about the opposition; we should just focus on our own game.”
Guardado 'an option'
Die Werkself managed to do just that against Stuttgart on Matchday 19, leaving midfielder Lars Bender optimistic his side can now kick on in the right direction on the back of their first three-point haul of the calendar year. “The win against Stuttgart has done us the world of good and it boosts our confidence ahead of a tough game against Borussia,” enthused the Germany international. “We can hardly wait as games against Borussia are exciting and usually have plenty of goals.”
Personnel-wise, Favre will definitely be without right-back Julian Korb (suspended), while fellow defenders Martin Stranzl (hip) and Roel Brouwers (groin) are both major doubts. Hyypiä has no such problems, though, and he may even hand Mexican international Andres Guardado his first taste of Bundesliga action following the midfielder's loan move from Valencia CF: “He’s an option on Friday, but we have to give him time to get used to our way of doing things.”
Gladbach: ter Stegen - Nordtveit, Jantschke, Stranzl, Wendt - Kramer, Xhaka - Herrmann, Arango - Raffael - Kruse
Leverkusen: Leno - Donati, Toprak, Spahic, Guardado - Bender, Rolfes, Can - Castro, Kießling, Son