Is it time to consider Borussia Mönchengladbach serious title contenders?
Here's an unbelievable statistic for you: After 19 games played so far this campaign, Borussia Mönchengladbach have conceded a league-fewest 12 goals. I'm sure you're thinking, "Why is this stat surprising? Gladbach is fourth in the league. Of course they have a good defensive record." Consider this: After 19 games last season they had conceded 50 goals! 50! That's such a turnaround it's almost unbelievable. "Almost" is the key word here. The defensive collective for Gladbach has truly been something to behold this year. Dante and Tony Jantschke in particular have stood out as two players that have improved exponentially over last season.
On the attacking end of the pitch, what more can be said about the magnificent Marco Reus? His play earned him a transfer to Borussia Dortmund next season, and the forward showed on signs of stopping as the Rückrunde began. He's been immense on the pitch for Gladbach, but he hasn't done it alone. The emergence of Mike Hanke and Patrick Herrmann as serviceable forwards has helped the cause.
It's difficult to fathom that this same team is challenging Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and Schalke for the league title just one year later, but they are. Will they be there until the very end? I'm not sure. I do think you need to keep April 21 open on your calendars. That day sees Borussia Mönchengladbach travel to the Westfalenstadion to battle Borussia Dortmund in what very well could be a title decider.
Borussia Dortmund kept Lucas Barrios.
Rumors exploded at the beginning of the week that Lucas Barrios was leaving Borussia Dortmund for English Premier League club Fulham. Well, he didn't leave, and Dortmund sold Mohamed Zidan to Mainz. It's been common knowledge that Barrios is not thrilled to be in Dortmund and was prepared to leave. Fortunately for Dortmund their backup forward is staying for at least the remainder of the season.
Why is this such a big deal? Dortmund have two number one forwards: Barrios and Robert Lewandowski. Barrios was the starter last year and was great. He picked up an injury last summer in the Copa America and missed the beginning of the season. Lewandowski stepped in and has been brilliant. He has 14 goals already to his name in this campaign. If Lewandowski is injured for any signifcant period of time, Die Borussen can expect Barrios to step right in and perform.
Yes, they would've kept Zidan had they sold Barrios, but everyone with a sane mind agrees that Lewandowski+Barrios is better than Lewandowski+Zidan. This is a title race that appears that it will go to the wire.
Has anyone seen Thomas Müller? If so, please return him to Munich.
The 22 year old hasn't scored since a September 24 encounter against Bayer Leverkusen. That's over 1000 minutes of Bundesliga play without scoring. What's happened to Müller? Well, the problem is actually simple to solve.
The entire team has struggled since that match. Four of their five losses have come since that match. Müller's not the only player in the side that has struggled to find his world class form since that match. Losing the club's midfield coordinator for and extended period of time didn't help things. Without Bastian Schweinsteiger, they turned to Toni Kroos to grasp the reigns before they slipped away. Kroos has done a more than admirable job of holding things together, but he's not he same kind of player that Schweinsteiger is.
Bastian's back now, and Jupp Heynckes has dropped Kroos back to partner. If Bayern is going to succeed in the league or Europe as we move toward the end of the season, they are going to have to figure out how to allow Kroos, Schweinsteiger, and Müller to all accomplish what they need to in the middle of the park.
Friday, February 3
Nürnberg vs Borussia Dortmund
Saturday, February 4
Wolfsburg vs Borussia Mönchengladbach
Hoffenheim vs Augsburg
Hertha Berlin vs Hannover 96
Schalke vs Mainz 05
Bayer Leverkusen vs Stuttgart
Hamburg vs Bayern Munich
Sunday, February 5
Freiburg vs Werder Bremen
Kaiserslautern vs Köln