An encounter with history, a match made in heaven: the defending champions versus a formidable Foals eleven. There’s Hazard and Plea, Lewandowski and James, it’s Bayern Munich versus Borussia Mönchengladbach on a poetic Matchday 7.
If the glorious 1970s gave us gargantuan battles between these awesome Bundesliga greats, modern times have served up sharper, slicker fare played by quick-tempo teams boasting twinkle-toed protagonists. So, when the Allianz Arena lights shine down on the pristine green pitch on Saturday, get ready to engage in the glory of a galloping Gladbach team facing a Bayern side intent on arresting a minor slide.
Watch: Gladbach stun Bayern in 2017/18 ...
“Those who know FC Bayern know that we won’t accept this and will do everything to return to winning ways. We have to get back to the basics.” The words of home coach Niko Kovac were delivered with his usual calm demeanour, yet those serene eyes have witnessed the nasty surprise of a recent three-match winless run. Augsburg (1-1), Hertha Berlin (0-2) and Ajax (1-1) have inflicted on the record champions a sequence not seen since the closing stages of 2016/17.
“We need to stay positive,” midfielder Thomas Müller mentioned. “In football you always have to look ahead. We have to tear ourselves out of this run.” A Gladbach team up to the giddy heights of fourth in the table would take plenty of glee in helping to prolong Bayern’s Bundesliga blues by playing their part in making it three straight top-flight matches without a win for Kovac’s men. The last time that came to pass in the Hinrunde – or the first half of the season – Louis Van Gaal was at the helm of the Bavarian giants in 2010/11.
“Obviously, we’re not used to this but it's not possible that inside one week, everything turns bad. Football is like that, you need a victory to get back on track," wing maestro Arjen Robben – who has scored in each of his team’s three domestic home games this season – explained to Kicker.
Indeed, Bayern had an identical points haul of 13 at the same stage this time last season and even went on to slip five points behind then leaders Borussia Dortmund after seven matchdays, little that it mattered. Jupp Heynckes eventually brought stability and oversaw the club’s sixth successive Bundesliga title with a 21 point winning margin.
Spirited by their best start to a campaign for four years, Dieter Hecking’s North-Rhine Westphalia wonders are nonetheless still seeking a first away triumph in this season’s Bundesliga. Perfect at home, Die Borussen have drawn two and lost one on the road, yet if they are to add to an admirable record against Saturday’s opponents, Hecking and Co. know that now is the time to strike.
“They are always under pressure to win,” recently returned full-back Michael Lang told Gladbach’s official website. “We have a huge challenge ahead of us before the international break but we want to give it our absolute all and would love to get something from the game, which has to be our aim.”
It’s an aim that the Foals have fulfilled several times over recent years. In fact, Borussia have won five of the teams’ last 14 meetings – including two triumphs at the Aliianz Arena – while the men from Munich picked up maximum points just six times during that spell.
“You have to have the right balance between attacking strength and defensive stability,” Hecking – at the Gladbach helm since December 2016 – said of his side’s challenge this season. His carefully crafted crew have at times struck that blend majestically this term. The team running a combined average of 74 miles per game compared to Bayern’s 71.5, Saturday’s visitors appear well-placed to hurt their prestigious hosts, who were recently frustrated by strong running sides Augsburg and Hertha.
In a sub-plot to raise the pulses, Robert Lewandowski (three goals) and Alessane Plea (four) will compete to be the game’s prime forward protagonist. “I’ve really settled in well at the club and to my position,” Gladbach’s record signing Plea – involved in five of his team’s last nine goals – said. Yet that battle will be just one of several that will propel this game to prominence.
Possession specialist Manuel Neuer (on the ball 305 times so far this season) will keep an eye on how his opposite number Yann Sommer fares at the other end, the Swiss custodian so far stopping 68 per cent of the shots on his goal. Former Dortmund and current Germany teammates Mats Hummels and Matthias Ginter, meanwhile, are so adept at their defensive duties that they rarely, if ever, give away fouls, Hummels failing to concede even one in three matches compared with Ginter’s three concessions in six games.
Watch: What makes Thorgan Hazard tick?
And then there is the prospect of Robben (three goals in five Bundesliga appearances) against Thorgan Hazard (three goals and one assist in six) lighting up the wings, the pairs’ combined sprint per game average producing a mouth-watering 66 forward bursts.
So expect passion and flow, goals and emotion and stay with bundesliga.com for a game that guarantees to be pure poetry in motion.