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Bayern Munich are top of the Bundesliga but are in a league of their own. Borussia Dortmund fell nine points behind the champions prior to the winter break, in effect handing Bayern their 10th consecutive title. Larger leads than this have been thrown away in the past, both in Germany and in other major European leagues, but, given how much better Bayern are than their domestic rivals, it is now a matter of when rather than if they wrap up the championship.
There has been considerable disquiet at the Allianz Arena this term. Joshua Kimmich was not alone in his decision to not get vaccinated against Covid-19 (he has now changed his mind on the topic), but the Bayern star bore the brunt of the criticism aimed at German soccer’s refuseniks. There has also been discord between the club and its supporters over a sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways, which is opposed by a significant section of the fan base.
On the pitch, though, Bayern continues to go from strength to strength. Hansi Flick led the club to Champions League glory 18 months ago, but there is a consensus in Munich that the current side led by Julian Nagelsmann is even stronger than the Europe-conquering outfit of 2019/20. That is not to say Bayern will replicate that achievement – Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid, PSG, and Chelsea will have something to say about that – but Nagelsmann’s side has played some magnificent soccer so far this season.
There is little danger of Bayern taking their eye off the Bundesliga ball just yet. They will be keen to extend their advantage at the summit of the standings this month in order to give themselves further breathing space ahead of the resumption of the Champions League in February. That is bad news for a Borussia Monchengladbach side in desperate need of a pick-me-up this weekend.
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The Bundesliga might be predictable in one sense, with Bayern almost guaranteed to finish on top of the pile each season and Borussia Dortmund well positioned to take the second spot. Below those two, though, it is hard to make forecasts with much certainty. Borussia Monchengladbach are evidence of that. They finished fourth in 2019/20 and eighth last term. Under the guidance of Adi Hutter, the Foals were expected to push hard for a Champions League spot this season.
But at the midway point of the campaign Gladbach occupy 14th place in the table. They are just two points above the relegation play-off spot and three clear of the bottom two. Having won just five of their 17 matches to date, their top-four ambitions are all but over. Barring a remarkable turnaround in 2022, this season looks set to be a disappointing one for Gladbach.
The second half of 2020/21 went badly for the Foals, but that was widely ascribed to the uncertainty caused by Marco Rose’s impending move to Borussia Dortmund. Adi Hutter replaced him as Gladbach manager in the summer but has not yet been able to make much of an impact.
Hutter’s side have struggled in particular at the back. They have the third-worst defensive record in the division and are giving up more than two goals per game on average. That is unsustainable but Hutter has yet to find a solution. A few more bad results and he could find himself out of a job.
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Gladbach ended a run of four straight defeats with a 1-1 draw with Hoffenheim before Christmas, but they are without a win since thrashing last-placed Greuther Furth 4-0 on November 20. A trip to Bayern would have been bottom of their list of preferred fixtures straight after the international break.
Gladbach’s record away from home does not make for particularly pleasant reading. They have taken just five points from a possible 27 on the road, having won one and lost six of their nine matches at opposition grounds. Only Greuther Furth and RB Leipzig have collected fewer points on their travels.
That record is unlikely to be improved on Friday. Bayern are relentless and the winter break will have allowed their players to freshen up for the challenges that lay ahead. Nagelsmann’s team will be keen to make a statement and move 12 points clear at the top of the table, at least until Borussia Dortmund play on Saturday.
Gladbach have been let down by wasteful finishing so far this season. Since they will create relatively few chances against Bayern, profligacy in and around the penalty area is likely to prove costly. Back a home win to nil.
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|Bayern Munich vs Borussia Monchengladbach Information|
|Teams||Bayern Munich vs Borussia Monchengladbach|
|Location||Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany|
|Time||Friday, 7 January 2022, 2.30 PM EST|
|How to watch||ESPN|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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