Borussia Mönchengladbach vs VfL Wolfsburg Preview: Fallen giants look for revival

Borussia Mönchengladbach vs VfL Wolfsburg Preview: Fallen giants look for revival

Two struggling sides will aim to finish 2016 with a positive result at the Borussia Park on Tuesday.

Kaustubh Pandey

Two seasons ago, few would have thought that a clash between Borussia Mönchengladbach and VfL Wolfsburg would actually be a game of two sides from the lower half of the division. But Tuesday’s clash at Borussia-Park will be one of those strange games indeed.

While the struggles of both the sides are genuine enough, Wolfsburg’s recent 1-0 win over high-flying Eintracht Frankfurt did bring the Eagles back to ground and handed the Wolves a way back into the top ten. It was Jeffrey Bruma’s headed goal around the half hour mark, which had handed Valerien Ismael’s men the crucial win.

For Gladbach though, the 1-0 defeat to Manuel Baum’s FC Augsburg had denied them the opportunity to win two consecutive league games for the very first time this season. Martin Hinteregger, who had made ten appearances for the Foals during his loan spell last season, had scored in the 75th minute to hand Augsburg their second win in sixth games, apart from winning Baum’s first game in charge.

Last season had seen André Schubert’s men win the clash at Borussia Park 2-0, but Dieter Hecking’s men had ended up winning the game at Volkswagen Arena by a 2-1 scoreline.

An unexpected slide for Gladbach

The season has been a very disappointing one for Gladbach, who had finished fourth during the previous season of the Bundesliga, after they had sacked Lucien Favre five games into the campaign. Schubert’s appointment had sparked an impressive revival, which ultimately helped the Foals qualify for the Champions League.

And it does seem as if European exhaustions have costed Gladbach a lot this season. They did put in a spirit showing during the 2-1 loss to FC Barcelona, but it was after that game at Borussia-Park that their season fell apart. The 4-0 loss at Veltins Arena was followed up by a winless run that lasted for seven Bundesliga games.

The 1-0 win over 1. FSV Mainz 05 at home brought that disastrous run to a halt, but the defeat to Augsburg last week proved that all is not right at the club. Granit Xhaka’s absence in the midfield has meant that the club has lost the steel in the the heart of the park, which had allowed them to dominate games. More so, the lack of a proper centre-forward in the line-up has taken away a lot goals from the side that had Max Kruse two seasons ago.

There has been a deficiency in terms of goals scored, as Gladbach lie 13th in the table of most goals scored after scoring only 14 goals this season. Three players- Lars Stindl, Raffael and Thorgan Hazard are Gladbach’s highest scorers at three this season, which is quite low for a side that has ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League.

And this being Schubert’s first full season in charge of the club, he is taking time in imposing himself completely over the side. It does seem as if he is slowly bringing his own style into place, trying out new formations and fiddling around with line-ups. A possible win over Wolfsburg can probably spark another revival.

It’s Gladbach’s home form, which will act as an encouraging factor for Gladbach, heading into the game as Andre Schubert’s men have lost only two out of the last 20 competitive games at Borussia-Park. And the fact that fewer than three goals have been scored in all but one of the eight home matches suggests that Tuesday evening’s game promises to be a tight one.

A relegation battle for the Wolves?

Few would have expected Wolfsburg to keel over to the extent they have, after an impressive second placed finish in the 2014-15 season. Last season did see Dieter Hecking’s men fall out of the European spots, owing to an eighth placed finish but this campaign has been a sheer disappointment for the men from Saxony, who currently lie at an underwhelming 15th place on the table.

The sacking of Dieter Hecking around a month ago following a run of poor results didn’t exactly spark the beginning of a series of runs, unlike what happened with Gladbach last season. Valerien Ismael has won only two games in the league thus far, which includes the 3-0 win over Freiburg and the recent win over high-flying Eintracht Frankfurt.

Much like Gladbach, Wolfsburg have lacked a lot of goals going forward and it does seem as if the sale of Bas Dost this past summer has affected them. They’ve scored just 13 goals in the league this season, out of which Mario Gomez has grabbed three, despite having endured a below par season at his new club. The injuries suffered by Daniel Didavi have derailed their attacking progress too, after the German joined from Stuttgart as a free-agent this past summer.

In terms of goals conceded, Wolfsburg lie seventh in the table of most goals let in at 23, which is a number equal to the number of goals conceded by Gladbach.

Wolfsburg away form under Ismael though, has been quite good as the Wolves have picked up eight points out of possible 13 on their travels this season. More so, they’ve conceded only 11 goals in seven away outings this season, out of which as many as five came during their 5-0 hammering at the Allianz Arena.

Some major doubts for Gladbach

Ismael’s men will have Phillip Wollscheid out due to suspension, while Didavi is a doubt due to knee problems. Ismael Azzaoui will still be missing due to an ACL injury, whereas Marcel Schäfer is a doubt because of a ligament crack niggle.

But its Gladbach who have a host of injuries to deal with, heading into the game. All of Raffael, Tony Jantschke, Lars Stindl, Christoph Kramer and American forward Fabian Johnson are doubts for the game, after having missed the trip to Augsburg this past week.

Possible line-ups

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

VfL Wolfsburg: (3-1-4-1-1) Benaglio; Bruma, Luiz Gustavo, Rodriguez; Guilavogui; Caligiuri, Seguin, Arnold, Gerhardt; Draxler; Gomez.