Borussia Mönchengladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer believes his side have nothing to fear ahead of Bayern Munich's visit to Borussia-Park on Saturday.
The Foals are currently third in the standings going into the eagerly anticipated clash with Niko Kovac's side, who are eight points further ahead, and are looking to do the double over the defending Bundesliga champions following their 3-0 victory at the Allianz Arena on Matchday 7 earlier this season.
That was no one-off either. Since 2014, no club has picked up more points against Bayern than Gladbach (14 from nine league meetings), and they are the only ones to have a positive record against the Munich giants in that time: four wins, two draws, three defeats.
Watch: Highlights of Gladbach's 3-0 win in Munich
Sommer, who has coincidentally also been at Gladbach since 2014, has a simple explanation as to why they are Bayern's bogey team. "Because we’re also a good side," he told bundesliga.com. "Of course, in the big games it comes down to who is on form on the day, how you approach the game and what happens in decisive situations, you can’t predict that. But we have a lot of quality in the team, we often defend very well and defend well offensively, with a lot of surprises and good set pieces. We don't have to shy away from Bayern; we have a good team and these games are exciting.”
Saturday's clash is likely to be no exception. Gladbach may have lost their last two games on home turf, against Hertha Berlin and Wolfsburg, but before then they won their first nine Bundesliga matches at Borussia-Park this season. And with Bayern looking to close the three-point gap on leaders Borussia Dortmund, this game could prove decisive in what is already an absorbing title race.
"Against Bayern you have to weather a few storms and then you need to have a compact defence and stay concentrated, which we did well last time," said the Switzerland international. “Bayern have strengths everywhere, but so do we. They have a very deep squad with plenty of quality, which offers a lot in every position. Against them, like with every opponent, we have to prepare meticulously and look at what the individual players do well and not so well.”
It is fair to say that Sommer himself has been doing very well in 2018/19 and is one of the underlying reasons for Gladbach's surge up the table. He has not missed a minute of league action so far, has kept more clean sheets (10) than anyone else and is fifth in terms of shots saved (76), all of which have contributed to Dieter Hecking's side having the division's second-best defensive record with just 25 goals conceded (Leipzig have let in 20).
"Of course [those statistics are] important, because it means that you’re doing a good job, it’s nice," Sommer said. "I’m not one to think too much about statistics, but when they show you’ve made the most saves and kept the most clean sheets, as a team, it’s a very positive thing.
"I think a goalkeeper needs a strong defence to have these stats, the clean sheets belong to the team and the saved shots are those which the defence couldn’t block, which is why I’m there. It’s very positive when the statistics look like that.”
Watch: Bundesliga legend Oliver Kahn takes a closer look at Manuel Neuer and Yann Sommer
Acting as the last line of defence only forms part of the duties of a modern-day goalkeeper, and Sommer believes he is a more rounded custodian now than when he first arrived, thanks in part to former coach and current Dortmund boss Lucien Favre.
"He imprinted this style of building from the back on me. From that point, I took big steps forward. When you come to a league with so much quality […] you need to be quicker, you need to have courage with crosses, jump higher and so on. You develop everywhere.”
In a bid to eke out any extra marginal gains, Sommer is not afraid to adopt unconventional methods – such as using special glasses during training.
“They provide good stimulation for the eyes," he explained. "They blink and that means you have a moment when you don’t see the ball, so your eyes get used to it. During crosses, you can judge the flight and speed of the ball, so you can improve your timing and improve where you collect the ball.”
Those very skills are set to be put to the test on Saturday when Robert Lewandowski, James Rodriguez and Co. come prowling for the points in Gladbach, but with Sommer ever alert and ready to spring into action, Bayern can expect another uncomfortable day at the office.