Cologne - When VfL Wolfsburg handed Bundesliga pacesetters FC Bayern München their first league defeat of the 2014/15 campaign, they laid down a daring blueprint that the rest of the football world could only wish to emulate.
Nine teams have come a cropper in their attempts to copy the formula, but Borussia Mönchengladbach - the next outfit to run the gauntlet at the Allianz Arena this coming weekend - could be the ones to the buck the trend.
The Foals have been in exceptional form in 2015, with only top-two incumbents Bayern and Wolfsburg collecting more points (19) than Gladbach’s 17. Lucien Favre’s men also boast the division’s most watertight of defences this calendar year, having given away just four goals in their last eight league outings. As a reference point, Bayern have conceded seven and second-placed Wolfsburg 11 in the course of the same period.
The performance against Hannover 96 on Matchday 25 demonstrated Gladbach’s strengths perfectly. Borussia enjoyed over 70 per cent possession, completed a season-best 93 per cent of their attempted first-half passes and restricted the visitors to just seven attempts on Yann Sommer’s goal. Two incisive attacking moves of their own involving Germany international striker Max Kruse and Belgian hotshot Thorgan Hazard, meanwhile, yielded ’s seventh and eighth strikes of the season - a personal best.
“When the team are playing well then it makes it easier for me to score goals,” Herrmann admitted after the game. “We've got a lot of great footballers with a great deal of quality. When you have such good players around you, then you know that you've always got to go full throttle. Obviously I want to be playing in every game and things are going pretty well for me right now […] Playing in Munich against Bayern in the shape they're currently in is going to be anything but easy.”
It’s now with a great sense of excitement, pragmatism and obligatory trepidation that Herrmann and Co. travel to the Bavarian capital to contest a fixture befitting its headline status on the Matchday 26 bill. The two Bundesliga juggernauts share a rivalry that has its roots back in the 1970s, a golden era for Gladbach fans that produced all five of die Fohlenelf’s Bundesliga titles, as well as one DFB Cup, two UEFA Cups and a runners-up medal in the old European Cup. While Borussia have lifted just one major trophy since, their long-time adversary from southern Germany have enjoyed a multi-decade-long spell more often than not at the pinnacle of the game.
In Bayern’s shadow
Indeed, with an 11-point lead atop the current standings, it would appear to only be a matter of time before Bayern get their hands on a 25th national crown. The still-young Pep Guardiola era has been defined by an unrelenting policy of week-on-week betterment and, with the experimental phase behind him, the Catalan pedant is reaping the rewards of his inimitable approach to his trade.
Bayern have plundered 28 league goals since losing the opening fixture of the Rückrunde at Wolfsburg on 30 January; even Robert Lewandowski - not a classic Guardiola player by any stretch of the imagination - is firing again, with six in his last four taking him up to 13 for the season and third in the leading scorers charts.
It can be done
Clearly, the record German champions’ animalistic qualities pose a frightening proposition, despite Gladbach representing one of only four sides to have taken points off the Bayern behemoth all season. Yet there is an argument to be made that it was the Favre paradigm from last October’s goalless draw at the Borussia-Park that provided the skeleton game plan for Wolfsburg’s ruthlessly efficient 4-1 success in the new year.
The two sides have discipline and pace in abundance - Borussia even have their very own Kevin De Bruyne in Herrmann - but every single cog has to mesh for the opposition to stand even a remote chance of silencing Guardiola’s rapacious troupe. The Wolves proved Bayern are vincible, and third-in-the-table Gladbach might just be about to repeat the trick.