This week has been a rather unmemorable one for both Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Bayern, riddled with injuries and illnesses, will take on a buoyant Lazio side in the UEFA Champions League this week, while Gladbach will face a rampant City. Will both sides overcome their flaws and earn respectable results against two high flying sides?
Mönchengladbach vs Manchester City
City did not have to exert themselves against a somewhat toothless Arsenal on Sunday; they scored an early goal and that goal proved to be the winner over ninety minutes. However, Arsenal did show that, with good organization, City can be contained to an extent. The problem, however, is that Gladbach is barely able to contain anyone at this moment after garnering a mass total of one point over three games, losing to bitter rivals Köln, drawing against Wolfsburg and losing to yet another relegation-threatened side in Mainz this weekend.
What was concerning about all three games was the nature of the losses. Gladbach started 2021 off well, beating both Bayern and Dortmund. Afterward, rumors about the departure of coach Marco Rose started to surface. And then, arguably the biggest fixture in Gladbach’s calendar, the derby arrived. Rose chose to rotate the side, keeping key members of the team such as Alassane Plea, Jonas Hofmann, Nico Elvedi and Ramy Bensebaini out.
The team seemed uninspired from the get-go and Elvis Rexbecaj took advantage of a messy back-line to score. Gladbach equalized through Florian Neuhaus but the performance did not improve. The Billy Goats scored a deserved winner in the second half. The ultras of Gladbach did not take this defeat well and wrote a strongly worded letter addressing Rose directly; they mentioned: “Anyone who sees the derby as an ideal opportunity to undertake a rotative experiment does not understand Borussia Mönchengladbach.”
FanProjekts Mönchengladbach chairman, Thomas Ludwig, responded to the statements. You can read more here but these are the words I found most striking: “[Dortmund] rip out the roots of our success.”
He has a point; Gladbach loses its best players to Dortmund from time to time (Marco Reus, Thorgan Hazard) and is now losing a coach who led them to a very strong showing in the league last season. This season, the team has looked uninspired too often. This weekend’s defeat to Mainz 05, on top of that, should never have occurred. After the game, Rose commented on his decision to leave and seemed to be aware that some feelings were indeed hurt:
Considering the poor quality of recent displays and the mentality of the squad due to Rose’s decision to leave, I think the Foals’ season might implode. Champions League qualification seemed a real possibility three weeks ago but seems miles away now; they sit nine points behind Frankfurt in fourth. A demoralized squad is ripe for a beating against a side hitting its top gears in City. In addition, a DFB Pokal clash against Dortmund looms large in which Rose is expected to do the right thing and try to beat his future employers.
The announcement of the departure along with the departure itself has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many Gladbach supporters and members of the hierarchy. In addition, this game will not be played at Borussia Park, a fortress, even when empty, due to COVID-19 restrictions. I see this game going in only one direction.
Prediction: Gladbach 0-3 Manchester City
Lazio vs Bayern Munich
Ever since coming back from the Club World Cup, Bayern’s form has hit a road bump. A 3-3 draw against Arminia Bielefeld in snowy Munich was followed by a 2-1 defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt. Defeats against Frankfurt are not rare for Bayern; the Bavarians lost to Frankfurt 5-1 last season, leading to Niko Kovac’s firing, and 3-1 in the DFB-Pokal final in 2018. That being said, the end results were worrisome.
Bayern started slowly against Bielefeld and Frankfurt, conceding two goals in the first half in each of them. Against Frankfurt, they could have easily gone down by three goals before the end of the half. Halftime substitutions in both matches changed the game; against Bielefeld, Joshua Kimmich replaced the ineffective Bouna Sarr and Bayern went on to salvage a point, while, against Frankfurt, Leon Goretzka replaced the quiet Marc Roca and Bayern regained control of their midfield. A plethora of missed chances, however, denied Die Roten of a point against Frankfurt.
The absences of Benjamin Pavard and Thomas Müller due to COVID-19 leaves the team short in two areas of the pitch where they really don’t have adequate replacements. When Müller ticks, Bayern ticks; he is Bayern’s talisman. Jamal Musiala is perhaps the best replacement for him considering Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting’s relatively poor performance against Frankfurt. In addition, Niklas Süle will likely replace Pavard in the right-back slot despite not having had the best outing there on Saturday. If Corentin Tolisso was available for selection, Kimmich could have played there; in fact, if Hansi Flick wanted, he could push David Alaba to midfield to partner Goretzka and have Kimmich play as right-back but that doesn’t seem to be the case based on recent reports.
Lazio has shown excellent form coming into this one and took four points off Borussia Dortmund in the group stages; Ciro Immobile is an underrated forward and Lazio have a strong midfield to hold up play as well. That being said, I think much of this match will come down to Flick’s choices. If Flick starts with his strongest lineup, I can see Bayern getting a result against the Italians. In addition, Bayern cannot have a slow start; this problem has plagued the team since October 2020; early defensive errors have seen Bayern go behind too often and chasing games repeatedly becomes tiresome at some point.
If Flick chooses his best team and Bayern shows up to play in the first half, Bayern might just get a good result in Italy.
Prediction: Lazio 1-2 Bayern
Let us know how you think both teams will do and, as always, thank you for reading!