The second round of the new Bundesliga season continues this evening with a clash between two of the opening day’s biggest expectation-exceeders. Whereas disciplined Borussia Mönchengladbach – who, lest we forget, only just edged out Bochum three months back to preserve their top-flight status – won 1-0 away to Bayern Munich after riding the storm, Stuttgart put in a commanding performance to beat Schalke 3-0. Those results last weekend ensured that both Lucien Favre and Bruno Labbadia – tonight’s home and away side coaches respectively – boast 100 percent records in 2011/12 so far; the former’s side knocking Jahn Regensburg out of the cup and the latter’s overcoming SV Wehen in the same competition two weeks back.
No one would be surprised if Stuttgart managed to keep up their early season form until Christmas, but it’s how they fare after the winter break that counts. Both the club and coach Bruno Labbadia himself have a reputation for producing spectacular half-season showings, but they always follow or precede 17 games of relegation form. At least the former HSV coach hasn’t had his squad dismantled over the summer, as so many Stuttgart coaches in the past have been forced to get to grips with. However, Christian Träsch has gone, joining Wolfsburg for €9million. The only outfield player to feature in every game for the club last season (no one else got close to achieving that feat), the versatile German international’s absence will be felt as the season progresses.
Nevertheless, goal-scoring, box-to-box midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanović is still at the club, as is attacker Martin Harnik, who seems to be maturing with each passing game. They have been joined by several notable attacking additions, including Ibrahima Traoré (a freebie left-winger from Augsburg), creative talisman Tamás Hajnal (signed from BVB after a hugely influential loan spell at the end of last season), defender Maza (€1.8million from PSV), and William Kvist (an attacking midfielder signed at a cost of €3.5million from Copenhagen).
Labbadia has advised caution ahead of the trip to Borussia Park, noting: “The season has only just begun. We cannot now believe that everything is good because there is still a huge mountain of work ahead of us in Gladbach.” The 45-year-old two-time German international is right to keep a lid on things, as he’s expected to be missing a whole host of players for this trip. Chief among the anticipated absentees are strikers Harnik and Julian Schieber, centre-backs Matthieu Delpierre and Georg Niedermeier, and winger Shinji Okazaki, injured on international duty for Japan in the week.
Favre is also lamenting the friendly internationals scheduled so early on in the new campaign, as he looks set to be without Igor de Camargo – not only a goal-scorer in the cup and against Bayern, but also the man who bagged the only goal in Gladbach’s crucial play-off first leg against Bochum. The striker, carrying a knock anyway, aggravated his injury in Belgium’s 0-0 draw with Slovenia on Wednesday. De Camargo’s absence could mean a surprise recall for Argentine striker Raúl Bobadilla. The 24-year-old last played for Gladbach in December 2010, and spent the second half of last season out on loan in Greece. However, with neither Mo Idrissou or Mike Hanke pulling up trees last season, despite finishing 2010/11 as a partnership when Favre deployed a 4-4-2 to season-saving success, Bobadilla could be given the chance to show Favre – who replaced Michael Frontzeck in February 2011 – what he can do.
The only other player expected to miss out is centre-back Martin Stranzl. Yet, with Marco Reus still – somehow – at the club, Gladbach fans wouldn’t care too much if the whole squad came down with flu so long as their multi-talented 22-year-old attacking midfielder was at 100 percent. Reus’ star is beginning to get competition when it comes to whose burns brightest at the club, however, as 19-year-old goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen turned in another fantastic performance at the Allianz Arena last week. Favre will need those two to have a good game if Gladbach are to halt a club run of just one win in the last 26 games against Stuttgart tonight. The last time the sides met at Borussia-Park, back in February, Stuttgart won a topsy-turvy game 3-2.
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs Stuttgart kicks off at 5.30pm in the UK, and can be watched live on Bet365.com.