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Preview: FC Bayern vs. Borussia Monchengladbach

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In the semi-final of the 2011-2012 DFB Pokal. FC Bayern comes in on the back of three straight convincing wins, though the Foals will likely present a tougher test than any of our three previous opponents. For their part, Monchengladbach have hit something of a mini-slump, winning only once in their past four and watching their Bundesliga title charge start to veer off course. This is a huge match, as the winner will get a major boost and the loser takes a step towards a trophy-less season. And, of course, in Cup play there are no draws.

The Line-Up

There were hopes that Bastian Schweinsteiger could make his long-awaited return to the starting XI, but that has been delayed again: he won't be ready until the weekend's match vs. Hannover, at the earliest. Toni Kroos and Gustavo have been playing well when paired at the two CM spots, but at some point we're going to need Bastian if we really hope to contend for titles.

On the back line, Rafinha was fit enough to play a bit in the second half this past week. Still, I think the Alaba-Lahm duo at FB has looked solid (with only a few minor glitches), so I have a hunch Jupp Heynckes won't want to break them up. Contento is available as well, and I wouldn't rule out the possibility that he gets a chacne to play in a Pokal match.

My guess for a line-up:

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Not very revolutionary, I know. We'll continue to monitor the situation and update as we can. But it appears that Bastian's absence won't be reversed, barring some Willis Reed-style moment on Wednesday.

The Opponent

Monchengladbach has been a thorn in our side all year, beating us in Week 1 of the Bundesliga season and again in January. The Week 1 loss wasn't as bad, because they only scored due to a strange and somewhat lucky goal, and because we recovered quickly to go on a winning streak. But the January 20 loss was one of our worst of the season: the Foals looked quicker and smarter, and also took advantage of a horrible Neuer blunder in beating us 3-1. And that loss threw us into a tail-spin that we only started to recover from over the past two weeks.

If you've seen 'Gladbach play before, you know what to expect: they play a very defensive game, they don't make a lot of mistakes, and they love to hit you with a quick counter-attack. Lucien Favre, the Monchengladbach head coach, won't try to maintain possession just for the sake of it - they're happy to sit back and wait, and then get a quick steal and burst forward to take advantage of space in the back.

Midfielder Patrick Herrmann is likely to return from injury, and will join Marco Reus and Mike Hanke as 'Gladbach's main threats. Igor de Camaro, whose goal beat us in Week 1, has seen himself fall out of favor and usually doesn't start when everyone else is healthy; still, he can be threatening off the bench, and our new back line faces its stiffest test to date.

Elsewhere in the Competition

Borussia Dortmund takes on SpVgg Gruether Fuerth in the other semi-final, which takes place tomorrow (Tuesday) evening. Dortmund is obviously the clear favorite, and they have designs on a domestic double. Nonetheless, SpVgg is undefeated in 7 matches across all competitions, and will have the home crowd behind them. Goetze is said to be nearing fitness, but won't be ready for this one. I don't anticipate doing a Match Day thread for this one, but I'll at least check in with a tweet or FanShot after it's over, when one-half of the Pokal final will be set.

Final Notes

- The match will kick off from Borussia Park at 8:30 PM local time (3:30 PM Eastern here in the USA). It will be broadcast on ESPN 3 in North America.

- Looks like Spring had arrived in North Rhine-Westphalia, as Wednesday evening is supposed to be warm and partly cloudy. In our last trip to Monchengladbach, I believe FC Bayern wore the red kits, and the Foals the home all-whites. But that might change for cup play.

- We'll be here with a Match Day Thread from an hour before game time. The new site has a nice commenting system, that actually allows for chat-style auto-refreshing comments and up-voting and flagging at the same time. So stop in and help us kick the tires a bit. And, as always, contact us at bayern.offside@yahoo.com with complaints or criticisms. Thanks for reading.