bundesliga.com previews a fixture that could go a long way to deciding who qualifies for the group stages of next season’s UEFA Champions League...
Gladbach currently have a two-point advantage over fourth-in-the-table Leverkusen, and know that victory this weekend would leave them needing just two more points from their final two games to seal the deal. A draw wouldn’t be a terrible result for the visitors, while a win could take the battle for third down to the final day.
Roger Schmidt has a tailor-made replacement for suspended winger Karim Bellarabi in 19-year-old , but with Gonzalo Castro ruled out for the season and Lars Bender struggling with a thigh strain, the former RB Salzburg tactician may have to put his faith in Stefan Reinartz and Simon Rolfes in defensive midfield.
Christoph Kramer will need to be at his disciplined best against his parent club. The Leverkusen loanee will return to the BayArena this summer, admittedly a much more rounded player following a fruitful loan spell in Gladbach, although the German midfielder’s reading of the game might prove the counter-happy visitors' undoing.
Die Werkself might not find quite as much joy on the break against Gladbach’s well-oiled rearguard as they’d like. Should that be the case, set pieces could hold the key and in Hakan Calhanoglu, who stuck away his fifth free kick of the season against FC Bayern München last time out, Bayer 04 have one of the best in the business.
Lucien Favre (head coach): "We want to win and hold on to third place. It’s an important game, but it’s only three points at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter if [Bayer] play home or away, they defend high up the pitch and play with a high intensity. Both teams are in great form, so the fans can look forward to an interesting match."
Schmidt (head coach): "We want to qualify automatically for the Champions League and to do that we have to overtake Gladbach. They have been solid at the back all season. They defend deep and can be really dangerous on the break If we lose, our chances of finishing third will be minimal. We want to try everything to win."
Unbeaten in their last 11, Gladbach are the Bundesliga’s form side at present, having picked up 33 points from 14 games since the turn of the year. Leverkusen have amassed 30 in that period and last weekend saw off champions FC Bayern to the tune of 2-0, a result that simultaneously extended their unbowed league run to ten.
Staggeringly, Gladbach haven’t beaten Leverkusen at home in the league since 25 February 1989 (D17, L6). Bayer 04 nicked a 1-0 win in last season’s corresponding fixture, but were held to a 1-1 draw when the two sides met at the BayArena on Matchday 15 - Dutch defender Roel Brouwers cancelling out Calhanoglu’s opener.
Gladbach: Sommer - Korb, Jantschke, Brouwers, Wendt - Kramer, G. Xhaka - Herrmann, F. Johnson - Raffael - M. Kruse
Leverkusen: Leno - Hilbert, Jedvaj, Toprak, Wendell - Reinartz, Rolfes - Brandt, Calhanoglu, Son - Kießling