Borussia Mönchengladbach - Bundesliga 2016-17 Season Preview: Fohlen set for second successive Champions League campaign

André Schubert prepares for a a first season without former captain Granit Xhaka.

Borussia Mönchengladbach - Bundesliga 2016-17 Season Preview: Fohlen set for second successive Champions League campaign
Image credit: VAVEL

Borussia Mönchengladbach's re-emergence in the last few seasons has been nothing but positive for the Bundesliga. As they embark on a second consecutive campaign with Champions League football, they'll be hoping to enjoy more success both domestically and in Europe.

Top four despite poor start

Gladbach came into the 2015-16 season with high hopes but their first five games provided zero wins and just two goals. Lucien Favre, who guided the club into the Champions League places for the first time just months prior, resigned on September 22nd with the club in 18th.

André Schubert would take over in the sixth game of the season and take the team out of the bottom half and into top five by the end of October. A tight race for the top four ensued toward the end of the campaign with Gladbach snatching the final Champions League place and completing an impressive turnaround. 

New season, same look?

Heading into the new campaign, there's unlikely to be much difference tactically between the way Gladbach start the new season, compared to how they ended last season. André Schubert will likely keep the same formation, despite losing a major part of his team, and it's doubtful we'll see a new-look Mönchengladbach as they look to pick up where they left off in May.

There will be new faces in the starting line-up in their opener against Bayer Leverkusen and Schubert's side will have to make do without some important players that helped guide them into Europe last season.

Major losses include Granit Xhaka

Gladbach's biggest loss of the summer came as their highly-rated captain, Granit Xhaka, departed for Arsenal in the Premier League. His presence in midfield will be sorely missed and their depth in the middle of the park is considerably weaker now, especially since the club also lost Havard Nordtveit to West Ham.

Former-captain Granit Xhaka joined Arsenal this summer. (Source: Getty Images)
Former-captain Granit Xhaka joined Arsenal this summer. (Source: Getty Images)

Centre-back Martin Stranzl, who played a major role in turning the club's fortunes around, retired at the age of 36 and two fellow defenders also left the club. Martin Hinteregger returned to Red Bull Salzburg after his loan, while Roel Brouwers sealed a move to Roda JC in the Netherlands. Forward Branimir Hrgota also departed from Mönchengladbach, joining fellow Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt.

There were also major positive moves for the club this summer were holding onto Mahmoud Dahoud despite plenty of interest in the highly-rated midfielder star. Andreas Christensen's loan move, which lasts until next summer, was kept in place despite rumours that Chelsea wanted the defender to return and Tobias Strobl joined from 1899 Hoffenheim. Jannik Vestergaard was recruited from Werder Bremen and Christoph Kramer is back in black and white after his move from Bayer Leverkusen.

Strong showings in pre-season

Gladbach kicked off their preseason in emphatic fashion, beating VfL Rhede 15-0. The Foals went on to win their next four preseason friendlies against clubs from the lower tiers of German football. The two preseason tournaments they featured in provided just one defeat as FC Zürich beat the Bundesliga side 2-1. 

Thorgan Hazard was arguably the standout player for Gladbach throughout the summer as he proved he'll be an important player in the battle for top four again this season. 

Players to watch

Thorgan Hazard - The younger brother to world superstar Eden Hazard has already proven just how useful he can be for Mönchengladbach, but 2016/17 may be the season he truly emerges as a star. The winger impressed in preseason and will likely see plenty more action in the upcoming campaign.

Mahmoud Dahoud - If you followed the transfer rumours this summer, you probably saw Dahoud's name linked to top clubs all over Europe. The young midfielder burst on the scene last season, attracting plenty of attention from some of the world's biggest clubs. With Xhaka now gone, the stage is set for Dahoud to take control of Gladbach's midfield and propel them forward as a club. 

The squad

Gladbach's midfield is a confusing place heading into the season. With Dahoud the main man in the middle, they'll be looking for the right compliment to him. Xhaka and Nordtveit's departures leave a gaping hole in the middle of the park and Schubert will hope that the returning Kramer can pick up where he left off at Borussia-Park.

There remains plenty of power going forward, with Raffael and Lars Stindl expected to lead the way. Patrick Herrmann and Thorgan Hazard also provide plenty of threat just behind the strikers, alongside Ibrahima Traoré

Christensen to shine yet again

There weren't many defenders in the Bundesliga better than Andreas Christensen last season. The 20-year old, on loan from Chelsea, was superb for Mönchengladbach last season and will only improve in the coming campaign.

With just a year left on his loan deal, the Danish defender will be hoping to impress his parent club ahead of his move back. Gladbach are likely keen to keep Christensen and another solid campaign could create some interesting transfer rumours next summer. 

A third consecutive season?

In a league dominated by Bayern Munich, it'd be foolish to say Gladbach could go on to win the league. While Leicester shocked the world and won the Premier League last season, Bayern Munich are unlikely to be closely challenged by anyone except Borussia Dortmund.

A battle for Champions League places awaits Borussia Mönchengladbach yet again and the talent in their squad should be enough to clinch one of those places, with Mahmoud Dahoud shining along the way. Prediction: 4th.