It has been an encouraging return to the European arena for Mönchengladbach. After initially struggling - they opened the group stages with a lacklustre draw at AEL Limassol and a home defeat to Fenerbahce - results have improved considerably, two wins and a draw in their last three matches being enough to guarantee them second place in Group C with a game to spare.
An important game
The result may be a dead rubber for the Foals, with their hosts already established as group winners, but in the eyes of Lucien Favre, there is much still to play for. “This is still a game in the Europa League and it’s important. We want to win it”, the Swiss head coach declared. After suffering the ignominy of losing 4-2 at the BORUSSIA Park - the team's first home loss in Europe since 15 October 1996 - there will also a desire for revenge in the Sükrü Saracoglu Stadium.
Those sentiments were echoed by striker Mike Hanke, who scored in the 2-2 draw at Marseille two weeks ago that sealed Gladbach's qualification. “Obviously we want to take the three points home with us”, said the 30-year-old, “To be able to play in this stadium against such a good team - those are the challenges you love as a footballer.”
Hanke takes responsibility
A sizeable chunk of the first-team squad has not travelled with the team to Istanbul, including the injured Thorben Marx and Lukas Rupp and the suspended Martin Stranzl. In their stead, Favre has opted to take some younger players along and hopes that those who are given playing time can make an impression. “This is a good opportunity for them to show me what they can do”, he said.
As one of the senior players on the trip, Hanke is taking it upon himself to assist those youngsters handed the responsibility of representing the club, saying, “I think it’s a good idea that they’ll be given a chance and I think I can help them settle in.” Record purchase Luuk de Jong has also been included in the matchday squad for the first time since a knee injury sustained in September, and could well feature from the bench.
Fenerbahce: Demirel – Gönul, Irtegün, Korkmaz, Ali Kaldirim – Topal, Raul Meireles – Kuyt, Christian, Erkin - Sow
Gladbach: Heimeroth - Zimmermann, Brouwers, Dominguez, Wendt – Cigerci, Xhaka, Bieler, Hrgota - Mlapa, Hanke