Champions League 2015/16 profiles: Borussia Monchengladbach
A surprise Bundesliga package over recent seasons, determined German Champions League debutants Borussia Monchengladbach are now taking a tilt at the top European club prize, where they are 4/1 to qualify from a highly competitive Pool D, or ‘Group of Death’, also containing giants Manchester City, Juventus and Sevilla.
Domestic league: Bundesliga
How they qualified: An impressive 3rd place Bundesliga finish sees the Foals make their Champions League bow proper, having finished domestically ahead of the likes of regular entrants Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke and Borussia Dortmund.
Best Champions League era performance: Monchengladbach were runners-up to Liverpool in the old European Cup back in their heyday in 1977, but have yet to make an appearance in the modern Champions League edition proper, having notably fallen in the play-off stage to Dinamo Kiev in 2011/12.
Though, the Borussians are not without continental pedigree completely, having twice lifted the UEFA Cup, former incarnation of the Europa League.
Coach: Swiss coach Lucien Favre has been Borussia boss since 2011, and the former Toulouse midfielder, hailed for his attacking yet defensively astute style of football, has done an excellent job manning the dugout.
The former Switzerland and Hertha Berlin manager took over the Foals when they were floundering bottom of the Bundesliga and, after helping his side escape relegation, has since regularly guided Monchengladbach to top half finishes.
Ins and outs: Christoph Kramer, now back with parent club Bayer Leverkusen, and marksman Max Kruse, sold to Wolfsburg, were by far the biggest loss this summer, with the former having excelled as Monchengladbach’s midfield marshal last season, and the latter lethal in front of goal.
The Foals’ two most notable off-season additions, meanwhile, included forward Josip Drmic from rivals Leverkusen, and the permanent purchase of former Chelsea attacking midfield Thorgan Hazard.
Familiar faces: Premier League fans may have kept tabs on former Blues Under-21 Hazard, Belgium cap and brother of Stamford Bridge superstar Eden. While the Borussians have also nabbed highly-rated Danish defender Andreas Christensen on loan from Chelsea for the season.
Key player: Granit Xhaka, an all-round midfielder, is the one that keeps things ticking over. The 22-year-old struck up a formidable partnership with Kramer last campaign, but needs to take on a leading role in his absence. Xhaka certainly has the skills in his locker to go toe-to-toe with the big-name foes he will face against City, Juve and co.
Patrick Hermann’s dazzling displays last term saw the German propelled into Die Mannschaft’s squad, and the goal-scoring midfielder, a Monchengladbach academy graduate, will be central to challenging on the continent.
Ones to watch: Hazard is the obvious answer. Could he be another Kevin De Bruyne-style oversight by Chelsea? The versatile attacker certainly has spades of promise, if not the limitless ceiling of his older brother.
Josip Drmic has the potential to be a Group D dangerman. The Switzerland striker struggled at Leverkusen last season but can get back to being a prolific force for the Foals.
Emerging talent: Borussia Monchengladbach’s backline boasts perhaps the most potential in their squad. Aside from loanee Christensen (19), the Bundesliga club can also offer Swiss centre half Nico Elvedi (18) and academy product Marvin Schulz (20).
CL group and fixtures:
v Sevilla (Away), September 15th
v Manchester City (Home), September 30th
v Juventus (Away), October 21st
v Juventus (Home), November 3rd
v Sevilla (Home), November 25th
v Manchester City (Away), December 8th