While the conclusion of FC Bayern München's 18th Herbstmeisterschaft as only a month ago, the month of no German football dragged on like a boat with an anchor dragging along the ocean floor.
Fear not, matey! The Bundesliga is back!
FC Bayern now have to take out the fly swatter and swat away the rest of the competition. Of the 18 Herbstmeisterschaften the Bavarians have won, only three times have they not gone on to win the whole thing. One of the teams that prevented them from winning? Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Currently in third, the Fohlen have the opportunity to play in the Champions League for the first time since 1978. They are one of the youngest clubs in the top tiers in Germany with an average age of 25.6, but that has not stopped them from being tied with the third best goal differential in the Bundesliga.
Now the season will restart the way it began, with two of Germany's most storied franchises trying to get off on the right foot.
The Match (99th meeting)
Location: Borussia Park, Mönchengladbach, Germany
Head: Peter Gagelmann
FC Bayern: 13 W, 3 D, 3 L – 17 YC, 1 Y/R, 0 RC
Assistants: Matthias Anklam, Thomas Gorniak
Fourth Official: Bibiana Steinhaus
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Television and Streaming
USA: GolTV USA
UK: BT Sport 2
Germany: Sky Bundesliga 1/2 | HD, Sky Go, Liga Total, Liga Total Mobile TV
FC Bayern: WWWWL
Meetings in 2013/14
W, 3-1 (FCB: Robben 12', Mandžukić 16', Alaba P 69' / BMG: Dante OG 40')
Bundesliga: 44 W, 27 D, 20 L
DFB Pokal: 6 W, 1 D, 0 L
1. Gerhard "Gerd" Müller, FCB – 14
2. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, FCB – 11
3. Josef "Jupp" Heynckes, BMG – 9
4. Dieter Hoeneß, FCB – 8
5. Roland Wohlfarth, FCB – 7
Biggest Victory: 7-1 (March 24, 1979, Munich, Germany)
Biggest Defeat: 0-5 (May 18, 1974, Mönchengladbach, Germany)
Thomas Müller addressed FC Bayern's complacency in comments Die Welt caught: "Maybe we let ourselves lull." That may be the case, but not in crunch time. When the occasion arises, the Reds usually rise to it. FC Bayern has scored multiple goals against two of the four clubs beneath it, the exceptions being VfL Wolfsburg and Bayer 04 Leverkusen which encased a Champions League meeting with Manchester City. The Bavarians only loss in major competition came in a meaningless match.
Friday's recommencement against Mönchengladbach is such a match. Manager Pep Guardiola still does not have his full complement yet, but his team will be prepared nonetheless.
Whether Franck Ribéry will take the pitch at Borussia Park is still the only thing up in the air, as he has been dealing with a back injury. Arjen Robben returned to team training on Wednesday, although a bench role is more likely suited for the recently-turned-30 as he admitted he's "not 100 percent." After missing the last two days of training with knee inflamation, Bastian Schweinsteiger would be a team sheet shocker, as would Daniel van Buyten, who is still in rehab training with muscle problems.
With van Buyten out, that leaves Javier Martínez and Diego Contento as the only other options at center back. Guardiola tinkered with a back three in every friendly match, and while some results were not ideal, the possibility remains legitimate for him to switch his squad into a midfield-packed set. That could be good news for Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, who has been the consistent contributor in front of a back three during the trial runs.
With a midweek match, the team selection might not be the best XI, but it will be a strong one regardless.
UPDATE [10:45 AM EST] – Javier Matínez has been ruled out of the match with foot problems, according to kicker and tz-online. That means the team sheet will likely contain two pure center backs, and both will be starting.
Projected Lineup (4-1-4-1)
Max Eberl really knows how to get a bang for his buck.
His major additions, Raffael from Dynamo Kyiv and Max Kruse from SC Freiburg, have combined for 17 goals as a striker-center forward partnership. His other addition, loanee Christoph Kramer from Bayer 04 Leverkusen, has the fourth best pass percentage for a central midfielder while also collecting the fifth most successful tackles in the Bundesliga.
Subtract European or cup obligations and Borussia Mönchengladbach is a legitimate force to be reckoned with.
The only hindrance entering the Rückrunde for the Fohlen is the absence of Tony Jantschke and Roel Brouwers. Jantschke returned to training Wednesday after facial surgery, while Brouwers is ruled out with a groin strain. That means manager Lucien Favre has to turn to Álvaro Dominguez to pair with Martin Stranzl in defense, the same duo that opened the Bundesliga season in Allianz Arena.
Whether Raffael is playing alongside or in behind Kruse makes no difference; Borussia Mönchengladbach scores the most goals at home in the Bundesliga largely due to the contributions of the two.
Projected Lineup (4-4-2)
Kruse – Raffael
Arango – Xhaka – Kramer – Hermann
Wendt – Stranzl – Dominguez – Korb
Bench: Heimeroth, Daems, Nordtveit, Younes, Rupp, de Yong, Hrgota
One thing is certain: expect a lot of goals in this contest. This is not only because these two clubs are in the top three in goals scored, but also because the last three trips for FC Bayern has seen three goals from 'Gladbach in each. Die Roten dominated the first meeting back in August, but that was with more hands on deck. With the positions each club is in, do not be surprised if a victor does not emerge.
Projected Score: Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-2 FC Bayern München