Borussia Mönchengladbach duo Florian Neuhaus and Jonas Hofmann (l-r.) are expected to cause Real Madrid some real problems. - © imago
Borussia Mönchengladbach duo Florian Neuhaus and Jonas Hofmann (l-r.) are expected to cause Real Madrid some real problems. - © imago
bundesliga

5 reasons Borussia Mönchengladbach will beat Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League

The recent performances of Jonas Hofmann and Florian Neuhaus are not the only factors that give Borussia Mönchengladbach the edge going in to their UEFA Champions League Group B meeting with Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid on Tuesday. bundesliga.com presents five reasons why the Foals will kick the 2019/20 La Liga winners into touch...

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1) White-hot Hofmann

Much was rightly made of Gladbach's potent strike force last season, with Marcus Thuram, Alassane Plea and Breel Embolo tormenting defences across Germany, ably aided and abetted by the wily Lars Stindl. And while that quartet remain crucial to the Foals’ play in the final third, it is a different player entirely who is hogging the spotlight this season: Hofmann.

The 28-year-old, who can play anywhere across the attacking midfield positions, is in the form of his life in 2020/21 – after all, Joachim Löw doesn’t call you up to the Germany team by accident.

Gladbach midfielder Hofmann has scored or assisted a goal in his last five matches in a row. - Thomas Voelker via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Jan Huebner

Of Gladbach's seven competitive games this season, Hofmann has been directly involved in a goal in six of them, the Matchday 1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund the only blot on that particular record. As such, he is Gladbach's most potent attacking force, chipping in with a goal or assist every 77 minutes on average.

He helped secure a battling win away to Mainz on Saturday, converting his second penalty of the season to equalise at 2-2, following up his strike against Inter Milan in Gladbach's Champions League opener. And so while Hofmann may have the looks and charm of a regular boy-next-door, Real would do well not to overlook his killer instinct.

2) Pass-master Neuhaus

Hofmann is not the only Gladbach player with the quality to cause Real a real headache. In Neuhaus, the Foals boast one of the most complete central midfielders in the Bundesliga, if not beyond.

The 23-year-old has found his calling in a slightly deeper role under Marco Rose, having been used further up the pitch in his early days as a pro. His assist for Hofmann against Inter was evidence enough of that. First time and weighted to perfection from inside his own half, it was the kind of pass Toni Kroos has made a career out of.

"I always said Rose would make me into a more complete player, and that's exactly what has happened," Neuhaus said in September. "I'm now the midfield playmaker, and carry a lot more responsibility."

Seven games into 2020/21, Neuhaus already has two goals and two assists to his name, and is hitting the mark with 87 per cent of his attempted passes whilst rising above the competition to win 84 percent of his aerial challenges. The 30-year-old Kroos has superior passing stats, but is yet to deliver in the final third in five attempts.

3) Rotating Rose vs. under-fire Zidane

As well as being Gladbach talismen and Germany international teammates, Hoffmann and Neuhaus also have match sharpness in common. Both were second-half substitutes in the comeback win against Mainz s Rose made five changes to the team that went within a last-gasp Romelu Lukaku equaliser of beating Inter.

Forwards Thuram and Plea - Gladbach's 10-goal top scorers in last season's Bundesliga - were among those rested for the trip to the German top flight's bottom club. Left-back Ramy Besebaini likewise enjoyed a breather after his goal-scoring efforts in Milan.

Watch: Marco Rose's Gladbach under the tactical microscope

Zidane could not allow himself such luxuries against Barcelona in El Clasico. Aside from being the biggest fixture on the Spanish football calendar, the Frenchman also had to right the wrongs of back-to-back home defeats to Cadiz in La Liga and Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League. The returning Kroos and Co. duly delivered in a 3-1 win, but at what cost physically?

Real's fourth competitive game in the space of 10 days could be their most taxing yet, against the third hardest-running team in the Bundesliga.

4) Fortress Borussia-Park

Real also have the not insignificant task of achieving something only five of 19 teams have managed since the start of 2019/20: a win on Gladbach turf.

Borussia boasted the second best home record of all teams in the Bundesliga last term, claiming 38 points from a possible 51 (W12, D2, L3), with champions Bayern Munich topping the list (41 points).

The Foals are also unbeaten in two at the Borussia-Park so far this season, and are averaging 2.24 points at home under Rose compared to Real's 2.00 on their travels across the same period.

5) Gladbach love the big occasion

Home advantage or not, playing against a side of Real's pedigree in the Champions League might cause some teams and players to wilt - but don't expect the Foals to be one of them. Gladbach live for the big occasion and inevitably rise to it.

Marcus Thuram (r.) scored 14 goals in all competitions for Gladbach last season, including one against Roma in the UEFA Europa League. - imago images/Team 2

A whisker away from toppling Inter a week ago, Rose's men beat Roma 2-1 at home in the UEFA Europa League last season after holding them 1-1 away, while Gladbach even drew at home to Pep Guardiola's Manchester City in the 2016/17 Champions League campaign.

Furthermore, no other team has can boast as good a record against reigning treble-winners Bayern: Gladbach have taken maximum points from the Reds three times in their last six meetings, and are one of just three teams (Bayer Leverkusen and Hoffenheim being the others) to have defeated Bayern during Hansi Flick's all-conquering tenure.

As if that were not enough, the Foals also have an impressive record against Los Blancos, as this was a regular fixture in the 1970s and '80s. Gladbach and Real have faced off four times, sharing two draws with one win apiece.