Not only is local pride at stake in a region gearing up for its annual carnival celebrations, but the fact that the hosts have not beaten Leverkusen on home soil in 20 attempts (15 draws, five defeats) dating back to 25 February 1989 adds extra spice to the proceedings.
Furthermore, spectators can get in the festive spirit in a fixture where goals are all but guaranteed. In the last ten league meetings between the two, the net has rippled an average of 3.9 times. Nippy winger , who scored the opener in the reverse fixture back in September's 1-1 draw, and midfield string-puller will be charged with ensuring the Foals come away with the lion's share of the final haul.
Even with a crucial UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg match at home to Lazio on Thursday, coach Lucien Favre insists the Bundesliga comes first: "Our full concentration is on Leverkusen. We'll start thinking about Lazio from Sunday onwards," said the Swiss tactician. "Bayer's team works well together, they're very organised and are dangerous on the break when they win the ball back."
Kießling chasing a century
The guests may have given defending champions Borussia Dortmund a run for their money last week, and currently sit eight-point ahead of their hosts, but they are nonetheless wary of complacency. "Gladbach aren't playing like they did last year, but they're still very dangerous," midfielder Gonzalo Castro told bundesliga.com in an exclusive interview ahead of the game. "They have guys like Arango in the side for starters."
Not that Leverkusen are short of firepower themselves. , and are tireless going forward, while club leading scorer is, by his own standards, long overdue a goal after failing to find the next in the last two outings. If the 29-year-old does break his duck, it will be his 100th Bundesliga strike - reason enough to get Karneval started early.
Gladbach: ter Stegen - Stranzl, Brouwers, Dominguez, Wendt - Nordveit, Marx - Cigerci, Arango - Herrmann, De Jong
Leverkusen: Leno - Carvajal, Wollscheid, M. Friedrich, Boensich - L. Bender, Reinartz, Rolfes - Castro, Schürrle - Kießling
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