A struggling Bayer Leverkusen will welcome a revitalised Borussia Monchengladbach to the BayArena this Sunday.
Leverkusen will be eager to put their Champions League dismay behind them and secure a much needed three points. The hosts dominated Barcelona but only dispatched one of their 26 chances; the result saw them qualify for the final 32 of the Europa League instead. Roger Schmidt’s men have not been so clinical domestically either, with just one victory in the last five matchdays. Leverkusen sit in eighth spot with 21 points and a -1 goal difference. Depending on other results, a win could see them climb as high as sixth on the table.
Gladbach are also fresh off European disappointment. Their 4-2 defeat to Manchester City left them out of contention for both the Champions League and the Europa League. The away side will remain in high spirits as they are undefeated in their last 10 domestic matches. After losing their first five outings of 2015-16, Gladbach have gone on to win eight and draw twice. Their most impressive performance was the 3-1 drubbing of giants and league leaders Bayern Munich. The Borussians will be keen to build on that victory and stand in third spot with 26 points and a +8 goal difference.
Key battle – Kevin Kampl vs Granit Xhaka
Kevin Kampl has been excellent in his debut season at the BayArena, easily shining more than he did at Borussia Dortmund in the season prior. The Slovenian has predominantly featured in a holding midfield role alongside Christoph Kramer. It is a combination that works and although Kampl is not the most physical of players, he still fits the role well. His creativity and exceptional work rate offers Leverkusen plenty. He has also showcased his striking ability and defensive contributions.
Granit Xhaka is a bright midfield prospect, netting three goals this campaign while demonstrating his long-range shooting and proving to be a huge source of creativity for Gladbach. Xhaka is renowned for his physical presence, but with that comes a tendency of getting booked, receiving six yellow cards and two reds for his troubles. He is arguably Gladbach’s most vital midfielder.
Both of these talented midfielders will be pivotal in the midfield battle, which could potentially emerge as a deciding factor.
Leverkusen defender Sebastian Boenisch will miss the clash due to suspension, while Lars Bender remains out with an ankle injury. There is slight doubt over Hakan Calhanoglu and Kramer, who both picked up knocks in midweek. It is likely they will still be in contention to start.
Bayer Leverkusen Expected XI (4-2-3-1): Leno (GK); Donati, Tah, Toprak, Wendell; Kramer, Kampl; Bellarabi, Calhanoglu, Mehmedi; Hernandez.
Gladbach’s Fabian Johnson is doubtful with a toe injury. As a precaution, Thorgan Hazard could start ahead of Johnson. Meanwhile, Ibrahima Traore could return to the lineup after returning to training this week.
Borussia Monchengladbach Expected XI (4-4-2): Sommer (GK); Korb, Christensen, Nordtveit, Wendt; Hazard, Xhaka, Dahoud, Traore; Raffael, Stindl.
There has been 67 meetings between these sides, with Leverkusen victorious in 24 and Gladbach in 16 while there has been 27 stalemates.
The two sides last met on 9 May 2015. Gladbach ran out 3-0 winners thanks to goals from Max Kruse, Patrick Hermann and Traore.
Schmidt and his men are desperate for a win. The three points would be vital, especially against a fellow top four contender in Gladbach. Leverkusen will have the chance to redeem themselves at home after their midweek Champions League exit. Andre Schubert and his men will also be looking to redeem themselves after double European disappointment. Gladbach will enter the clash with more confidence due to their exceptional domestic form as of late.
The three points will be important for both sides but a loss for Leverkusen would be a crushing result. The BayArena outfit know a win will be the only positive outcome.
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