We preview Thursday night's Europa League Round of 16 2nd leg match up between Borussia Monchengladbach and Schalke 04.
Monchengladbach thrashed Schalke just over a week ago when they met at Borussia Park in the league, but last week this Schalke team managed to salvage a draw in the first leg of this tie. Markus Weinzieri’s side put on a dominant performance at the weekend, dispatching of Augsburg 3-0 in a display that will no doubt leave Dieter Hecking with plenty to think about. Hecking’s side were humbled by Hamburg and will know that their fanatical home support will have lofty expectations in the wake of that colossal comeback win over Fiorentina. This should be a titanic all-Bundesliga affair that pits the more phlegmatic Schalke against the free-flowing Monchengladbach.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Schalke 04 | Thursday 16 March | Borussia Park | 22:05
To Win (90 Mins)
Monchengladbach 11/10 | Draw 24/10 | Schalke 14/10
Monchengladbach will still be without the instrumental Thorgan Hazard as the Belgian recovers from injury. I think that his absence was felt somewhat at Schalke as they battled to break through a pugnacious backline. Having said that, there is plenty of ability in this Monchengladbach side, who play with something that resembles a 4-4-2 formation, or as close as you are going to get to one in European football. Club captain Lars Stindl will lead the line with the incandescent Raffael bouncing off of him. Raffael’s absence through injury for much of the early part of the season has had a direct bearing on their poor domestic position.
A 2-1 defeat to Hamburg wouldn’t have been the best way to prepare for this tie, but Hecking’s side know how to turn it on when they need to: just ask Fiorentina. I think that Schalke’s deployment of a back three will be exposed by the fluidity of this Monchengladbach side. Johnson and Hermann will likely play off the flanks, darting in and out, waiting for the effervescent Raffael to penetrate Schalke’s defence with his acute range of passing.
Burgstaller looks to finally be settling at Schalke following his move, scoring two goals against Augsburg and looking dangerous with every attack. Choupo-Moting also looked dangerous coming off the flanks while winger Alessandro Schopf is the club’s leading scorer this season. It does say something about Schalke that a winger has thus far been their chief protagonist in front of goal. Their star players are in their back-three - Howedes and Badstuber being the rocks - which really exemplifies some of the attacking issues that the club possesses.
Schalke know that with the away goal, Monchengladbach currently hold the edge in this tie. This will necessitate that Schalke take the attack to a Monchengladbach side that thrives on quick counterattacks. Stambouli and Meyer will need to be disciplined to prevent the likes of Johnson and Herrmann from countering too swiftly. In Burgstaller and Choupo-Moiting they have clear goal threats, and there’s always the venerable presence of Huntelaar on the bench in case of emergency.
Verdict: Borussia Monchengladbach 11/10
It’s quite hard to accurately predict what type of game this is going to be. Monchengladbach will want to express themselves, but perhaps Hecking will demand some self-control from a side whom currently hold an advantage - albeit a slim one. But I do think that Hecking’s side will ultimately prevail, with too much pace and quality going forward.
Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.