Borussia Monchengladbach v Manchester City
Wednesday September 30, 19:45
Live on BT Sport 2
Borussia Monchengladbach have won their last two games, while Manchester City have wobbled, but our Bundesliga man Kevin Hatchard doesn’t believe in the hosts’ recovery…
Progress in football can be a fragile thing. For example, Liverpool came within touching distance of winning a Premier League title, but now appear a million miles away from repeating that performance. Borussia Monchengladbach fans are enduring a similar recalibration of their expectations.
Having finished third in the Bundesliga last season, thus qualifying for the Champions League group stage for the first time, hopes were high amongst Foals fans that the team could kick on under the wise guidance of veteran coach Lucien Favre. Less than two months into the campaign, Favre is gone, having convinced himself he couldn’t turn around a season that had begun with five consecutive Bundesliga defeats.
Gladbach were hit hard by two key departures in the summer. Indefatigable midfielder Christoph Kramer returned to Bayer Leverkusen upon the completion of a two-year loan spell, and astute forward Max Kruse defected to Wolfsburg. Neither player was adequately replaced.
The Foals have appointed Under-23 coach Andre Schubert on an interim basis, and although he has won his first two games in charge, that revival has to be put into context. The victories came against Augsburg and Stuttgart, who are both struggling badly this season.
The problems at Gladbach still remain. The absence due to injury of defensive leader Martin Stranzl has spread anxiety at the back, and despite a number of different combinations being attempted by both Favre and Schubert, the team hasn’t managed a single clean sheet this season. Indeed, Gladbach have leaked 18 goals in nine games, a total contrast to the miserly defending of last season.
Although Brazilian striker Raffael has finally woken up since Schubert took the reins, summer signing Josip Drmic already looks like a bust, and the team is too reliant on German international Patrick Hermann’s speed and ability to penetrate defences.
Gladbach were hammered 3-0 at Sevilla in their group-stage opener, and with Juventus and Manchester City in the section, it’s hard to see the Rhineland club’s European adventure lasting beyond Christmas.
The idea of fragile progress also applies to Manchester City. Having won their first five Premier League games of the campaign, Manuel Pellegrini’s men have suddenly slammed into a brick wall. An entirely avoidable 2-1 home defeat to Juventus made for an awful start to the Champions League group stage, and jarring league losses to West Ham and Tottenham have re-applied pressure to the perennially haunted Pellegrini.
Injuries haven’t helped City’s cause, and without keeper Joe Hart and skipper Vincent Kompany they looked vulnerable at White Hart Lane. Although the absence of playmaker of David Silva is undoubtedly a blow, it has allowed Kevin De Bruyne to take more of a pivotal role (his awful clearance for the equaliser at White Hart Lane notwithstanding), and the Belgian scored against both West Ham and Spurs.
City have repeatedly failed to impress at this level, and failure to emerge from the group stage would surely cost Pellegrini his job, although there are many who believe Pep Guardiola will swap Munich for Manchester in the summer regardless of how the Chilean performs this term. What is certain is that a slip-up in Germany would make qualification pretty tough, as Juventus and Sevilla are teams that have made winning a habit in continental competition.
Opta tell us that City have lost seven of their last 11 Champions League games, and that they have lost on three out of four trips to Germany in Europe’s top competition, but I’m basing this selection purely upon where the teams are currently at.
Gladbach’s revival is illusory, as they have beaten two poor teams, and I still believe they have big problems in terms of their personnel and the shape of their side. City have hit a sticky patch, but with De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero all potentially in their starting eleven, they can expose a Gladbach defence that has struggled badly without the leadership of Stranzl. Gladbach built up an excellent home record last season, but they have already lost at Borussia Park to Mainz and Hamburg.
Although City have often misfired in this competition, they have won four of their last nine Champions League away games, and against a team with brittle confidence they can take all three points. The away win is attractive at 1.95.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Gladbach have played nine games in all competitions, and eight of them have featured at least three goals. The Opta stats show Gladbach have scored in each of their last 15 home games in European competition, and it’s also worth considering that six of City’s nine games this season have seen an Overs bet pay out. With the pressure already on, both teams have to go for it to an extent, and I fancy Over 2.5 Goals at 1.86.
Sergio Aguero has scored 14 goals in his last 14 Champions League starts for City, so it’s not a surprise to see him priced at 1.83 on the Sportsbook to score at any time. The in-form De Bruyne 3.50 has recent experience of playing against Gladbach, but he failed to score in two games against them last season.
For Gladbach, Raffael 3.50 has found the net in each of his last two games, and if City left-back Aleksandar Kolarov is caught upfield on one of his trademark offensive forays, Patrick Herrmann 3.80 has the pace and skill to create chances on the counter-attack.