This is one match-up where table position does not tell the whole story. Bayern Munich have dominated in the Bundesliga as expected, but, despite being in the neighborhood of the relegation, Borussia Mönchengladbach have, along with Borussia Dortmund, collected the second-most points in 2017 and have climbed back up to ninth place.
Here’s what to watch for when Bayern travel to Mönchengladbach this weekend.
A strong team... but who?
Bayern had the midweek off, and next week will be the international break. Besides Douglas Costa, everyone should be available, so Ancelotti will put his best team on the field. Thomas Müller, Xabi Alonso and Joshua Kimmich will all be selections worth looking out for. Gladbach have also made a bit of a comeback since Dieter Hecking took over at the winter break, so Ancelotti will not be pulling his punches against this team.
If Christoph Kramer disrupts Bayern’s build-up play
He may lack passing or dribbling attributes a midfielder should have, but there are few midfielders better defensively than Kramer. His ability to win the ball, both in the air and on the ground, will be important for Gladbach as they face a team with the most diverse group of scorers in the league. Balls Thiago is so good at playing through may not get by Kramer, and if that ends up being the case, Bayern may have a difficult time finding a direct way to score.
Can Robert Lewandowski turn his luck around?
Of the teams he has faced more than 10 times in his career, Gladbach is the team he’s struggled against the most – he has one goal in those ten games. But he has scored 10 goals in his last seven games in all competition, and is just one goal behind former teammate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the Bundesliga. He will have a tough time against Jannick Vestergaard, who is one of the best Bundesliga defenders in the air. Müller may be able to take some attention off of him if he plays, but even if he does, he may have a tough time getting his name on the score sheet.
How well Franck Ribery holds up
Ancelotti has been very conservative with Ribery since he returned from thigh and glut injuries, only playing him three times in five games and substituting him off in both of his starts. He may have to be in the starting line-up this week with Douglas out, and he could prove to be a liability if he doesn’t look like himself. He would be going up against Tony Jantschke, a less agile but more imposing right back. No one is expecting him to be the European player of the year he was, but he does have to show up if Ancelotti starts him.
The toughest match in 2017 so far
Gladbach have had three coaches in the last three seasons, but even with so many coaching changes, they have seemed to given Bayern a tough test. Bayern have not won in Borussia Park in three years and, because the Foals have five wins in eight games under Hecking, they will probably have a tough time on Sunday. But Bayern have completely exposed teams in the last few weeks, so it will be interesting to see if they can tear through a team they have struggled against in the last two seasons.