18:00 (CEST), Sunday 20th August, Borussia-Park (Mönchengladbach, Germany), BT Sport 1
A cracking game to end the first week of the Bundesliga season as two of Germany’s fiercest rival’s face-off under a setting sun in Mönchengladbach. Köln are coming off their best season since returning to the Bundesliga, finishing 5th and qualifying for the Europa League for the first time in 25 years. However, with a new season and their star striker Anthony Modeste exchanging Köln for Tianjin Quanjian, who will be banging in the goals for Peter Stöger’s side this campaign.
Borussia Mönchengladbach had a rollercoaster season last time out, starting the 2016/17 season with André Schubert who had brought Champions League football to the club. But after a poor first half of the season, he was sacked for the experienced Dieter Hecking who turned the clubs fortune around somewhat to have Gladbach finishing 9th. With a full season under Hecking, will Borussia be able to return to the heights of European football?
Last Time Out
Rot-Weiss Essen 1-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach (DFB Pokal)
If Borussia Mönchengladbach were expecting a cakewalk match with 3. Liga side Rot-Weiss Essen they were greatly mistaken. Essen came out with great intensity and opened the scoring on 29 minutes through Benjamin Baier. Gladbach didn’t wake up until the second half where they peppered the Essen goal.
Their reward came on 79 minutes when Jonas Hofmann finished from close range to level the ledger. 3 minutes later Gladbach sealed their place in the second round as Raffael scored his first goal of the domestic season. Borussia spared their blemishes with a dominant second half but a flat first half would’ve been concerned for Dieter Hecking.
Leher TS Bremerhaven 0-5 Köln (DFB Pokal)
Köln had a much simpler task in the as they dispatched Bremen-liga side to the tune of 5-0. Leonardo Bittencourt started the scoring on the 28th-minute mark when his shot squeezed past the Leher defence. Defender Frederik Sorensen made it 2-0 on 34 minutes and things go harder for Leher as they would be reduced after an Arwin Hashemi handled the ball in the area.
New signing Jhon Córdoba slotted home the penalty to score his first domestic goal for Köln. Simon Zoller made it 4 to the good on 69 minutes and the destruction was completed 15 minutes before time, as Sehrou Guirassy scored his first Köln since joining from Lille last summer.
Borussia Mönchengladbach Lineup
Dieter Hecking has a lean supply off centre backs to choose from as he selects his side for the season opener. Reece Oxford, Timothée Kolodziejczak and Mamadou Doucoure are all out injured leaving new signing Matthias Ginter and Jannik Vestergaard as the only option. Denis Zakaria will make his Bundesliga debut after joining from Young Boys Bern in the summer, he will partner Christoph Kramer in midfield. Jonas Hofmann will come into the starting XI after he impressed against Essen in the cup, Thorgan Hazard to make way.
With the departure of Anthony Modeste, Peter Stöger has a selection dilemma come the opening day. All four potential options got time with all but Artjoms Rudnevs finding the back of the net. Jhon Córdoba has started most games through the preseason and looks the most likely to get the start up top. Yuya Osako is still out with injury and will miss the clash in Mönchengladbach. A 4-2-3-1 is expected which can be adapted to a 4-4-2 if needed.
Key Battle: Christoph Kramer vs Jonas Hector
Two German internationals will do battle in the 87th Rhine Derby in Mönchengladbach. Christoph Kramer hasn’t returned to the hype which saw him apart of the World Cup winning German national side in which he started the Final. The season back with Leverkusen certainly dented his confidence and Kramer has had plenty of form dips throughout. Can Kramer recapture his stellar 2014 form and help Gladbach to victory on Sunday?
Jonas Hector has been making the transition into midfield for some time and with options like Konstantin Rausch and newly signed Jannes Horn, Hector can make himself a threat in more central areas. Peter Stöger has be fascinated with playing Hector in central midfield and for the most part it has worked as the Germany international is good in position and picking out teams as well as creating chances for his teammates.
Last season, Hector had an 81% pass completion rate and created 37 chances which was the best in Köln’s team. It will be an interesting battle in which I believe Hector has the upper hand, we just don’t know which Kramer will turn up on the day.
Winning it late
In both fixtures last season, it was the away side who took the points late. On matchday 11 it was Marcel Risse scoring on the stroke of full time who scored arguably the goal of the season, whilst on matchday 28 it was Lars Stindl who scored the winning goal with 10 minutes remaining to win it for Gladbach. It’s expected to be an extremely tense affair with goals a plenty, will either team be able to hold a lead or will one crumble as the final whistle approaches?
Lars Stindl and Raffael have been a staple for Borussia Mönchengladbach for the past three seasons and in front of the home faithful on Derby day, they will be expected to deliver goals and three points on matchday. For Köln’s Jhon Córdoba, it will be his first Rhine Derby and he could easily get overawed by the occasion. The striker will be looking to impress his new employers on the club’s biggest day of the season, can he deliver or will he succumb to the pressure?
Prediction: Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-2 Köln
Last season, the pair scored 8 goals in their two contests and I believe the final match of week 1will be an instant classic as the tension of Derby football wields a great spectacle. In the last five meetings we haven’t had a draw and with both sides looking to get off to the best start, we will see free flowing football and goals on the menu. But for the first time since 2014, a draw will be produced in the 87th Rhine Derby.
Will it be Borussia Mönchengladbach or Köln who take the points in week 1? Let us know in the comments section below.
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