We preview Thursday's Round of 16 1st leg game between Schalke and Monchengladbach.
This all-Bundesliga clash comes off the back of a pulsating dual in the German top division. Monchengladbach ultimately proved too classy for a Schalke side looking fresh out of ideas. The 4-2 scoreline perhaps never did ample justification to the dominance of Dieter Hecking’s side. Their fabulous comeback victory over Florentina in the round of 32 exemplified the danger that this youthful, dynamic side possesses. Markus Weinzierl knows that his side will need to put up a respectable home performance should they stand any chance of progressing through to the quarter-final stage.
Schalke v Borussia Monchengladbach | Thursday 9 March | Veltins Arena | 22:05
To Win (90 Mins)
Schalke 23/20 | Draw 23/10 | Monchengladbach 23/10
Schalke are a side that has ultimately suffered from an extended period in Europe. This has been compounded by a string of high-profile injuries. Naldo is out for the entire season while Baba Rahman is out until August. Embolo is only available again in April while Coke is set to return at the end of this month. So there have been injuries to offset. Perhaps that’s why Weinzierl insists on playing this 3-1-4-2 formation, with Stambouli sweeping in front of a back three. In any event, Monchengladbach easily outmanoeuvred the side and found acres of width down both flanks, with Johnson and Herrmann causing chaos down the flanks.
Howedes is the club captain and the 2014 World Cup winner needs to motivate this slightly bedraggled group of players. Bentaleb - the former Spurs man - needs to find an extra gear or he is going to be torn apart by the likes of Johnson and Raffael. They do have the experience of Klass Jan Huntelaar and Franco Di Santo to call on should they desperately need a goal. But there are just too many areas of the pitch where this Schalke side falls woefully short of Monchengladbach.
It definitely hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Hecking’s side this season. Similarly to Schalke, they have been caught up in the distractions that European football has brought, letting themselves get stranded in mid-table obscurity. But their come-from-behind victory over Fiorentina looks to have been a proper turning point for the club. Even without the influential Thorgan Hazard, Monchengladbach were sensational against Schalke at the weekend and will be unlikely to make any real changes this week.
Johnson and Hermann were both excellent marauding those flanks, fully aware that Schalke’s system does have vulnerabilities in wider areas. Hazard’s injury has been offset by the return to fitness of the effervescent Raffael. Lars Stindl leads the line commendably and Dahoud and Kramer are absolute rocks in midfield.This side plays a dynamic, gung-ho style of football that does leave gaps at the back, but there is just too much quality in this side to be outdone by a Schalke side bordering on insipid.
Verdict: Monchengladbach 23/20
It’s always a dicey option going for the away team in these crunch European matches, but I don’t see anything from Schalke to convince me that they can contain this Monchengladbach side. While Howedes and Badstuber are excellent international players, there’s far too much responsibility on them to contain opposition sides.
Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.