Borussia Mönchengladbach vs 1. FC Köln Preview: The 118th Rheinderby a must-win for the hosts

It might not be the biggest game in the Bundesliga this weekend, but for fans of Borussia Mönchengladbach and 1. FC Köln, it doesn’t come any bigger than when the two sides lock horns.

It might be their biggest grudge match of the season, but for both sides there is greater importance on the game.

For the hosts, a desperate need to end a run of five games without victory, whilst Köln want to keep up their impressive start to the season, despite the form starting to falter before the international break.

Strong home advantage for Gladbach

Borussia-Park will play host to the 118th chapter in one of Germany’s fiercest rivalries. And it is quite a fortress for Gladbach when the old enemy come to town. Although historically they have won just over half of all meetings there, Köln haven’t won an away meeting since 2008, their only such victory in 24 years.

In fact, they have only beaten Gladbach once since 2008, and that was the home encounter in September last season, with Anthony Modeste scoring to inflict a fifth-straight league defeat on Gladbach and end Lucien Favre’s memorable four-and-a-half years in charge.

André Schubert was firmly in place by the time to two sides met again the following February, with Gladbach’s lone goal in the 1-0 victory coming from Mahmoud Dahoud to ensure a fourth-straight win against Köln at home.

“We have not been very successful [against Gladbach] these past few years,” said Köln coach Peter Stöger ahead of the match. “It would be nice if we could get something out of it, but it will be a difficult challenge.”

An historical rivalry

The origins of the rivalry date back to the 1960s and 1970s, when the two club were regularly competing at the very top of the Bundesliga. It flourished as Köln, winners of the first Bundesliga title in 1964, saw themselves eclipsed by the rather more provincial Gladbach, led by former, and future, Köln man Hennes Weisweiler.

One of their most famous encounters was the 1973 DFB-Pokal final in Düsseldorf, won in extra time for Gladbach by Günter Netzer, who famously brought himself on at full time and justifying his self-determination with a screamer just minutes later.

The clubs famously fought for the Bundesliga title in the 1977-78 season, with Köln, now managed by Weisweiler, getting a 5-0 win over FC St. Pauli that was enough to dethrone the previous year’s champions, despite their own 12-0 victory against Borussia Dortmund.

Despite not living up to their former glories, the rivalry between them remains as fierce as ever, and there is little love lost between the two sets of fans.

“Derbies are always extra special,” said Schubert, who also spoke about the passion surrounding the match. “Passion makes football what it is - a derby without passion would be boring,” he said. “The derby thrives on tough challenges, rivalries and the fighting spirit that makes it.”

Gladbach looking to halt disastrous slide

Gladbach come into the game on the back of a poor run of form that has left them without a Bundesliga win in five attempts. Coincidently their last victory in the league, against FC Ingolstadt 04, came just before Schubert extended his contract until 2019.

“When all of our players are fit, and we’re playing with confidence and to the best of our ability, we can beat any team in the Bundesliga,” said a bullish Schubert. “We’ve said that a lot, and we’ll stand by it. But we’ve not had our full squad available over the last few weeks, so we couldn’t really rotate the team as well as we’d have liked.”

Their last match was little less than a disaster, with Salomon Kalou scoring a hat-trick for hosts Hertha BSC and Gladbach's problems exacerbated by Christoph Kramer's sending off just before half-time. They also lost Patrick Herrmann for the foreseeable future after he picked up a bad ankle injury.

By comparison, the Billy Goats have been flying, sitting six points ahead of their Rhineland rivals. However despite going unbeaten through their first seven matches, they have lost two of the last three.

They were beaten by fellow surprise packages Hertha and, in their last outing, Eintracht Frankfurt, with Modeste putting three past hapless Hamburger SV in between.

Horn blow for Köln

Gladbach will be without Kramer as he serves his suspension, meaning Mahmoud Dahoud to return to the starting line-up alongside Tobias Strobl, who spent the 2012-13 season on loan with Köln.

After their recent injury crisis, they are further boosted by the return of Andreas Christensen, but are also without Herrmann, Álvaro Domínguez and Josip Drmic, although the Swiss forward is back in training.

There was a big blow for Köln during the international break when goalkeeper Timo Horn underwent knee surgery, ruling him out until after the winter break. Thomas Kessler will play ahead of Sven Müller in goal, having been himself injured when Horn missed the game against VfL Wolfsburg in September with a muscle injury.

“Kess will play because we have 100% confidence in him,” confirmed Stöger. “He is an experienced goalkeeper and he is in fine form.”

There are no other new injury concerns for him, however Dominic Maroh and Leonardo Bittencourt remain on the sidelines.

Predicted line-ups

Borussia Mönchengladbach: (3-4-1-2) Sommer; Vestergaard, Elvedi, Christensen; Johnson, Dahoud, Strobl, Wendt; Stindl; Hazard, Raffael.

1. FC Köln: (4-4-2) Kessler; Sorensen, Mavraj, Heintz, Hector; Risse, Lehmann, Höger, Zoller; Modeste, Osako.

Quotes via Borussia Mönchengladbach and 1. FC Köln.