Jack Grimse prepares you for the first Topspiel der Woche of the Bundesliga season.
Matchday 1’s marquee matchup will take place at Borussia-Park, as Bayer Leverkusen visit Borussia Mönchengladbach to kick off the season.
Only an hour’s drive separates the two clubs, and there wasn’t much space between them in the final Bundesliga table last season either. Leverkusen finished third with 60 points; Gladbach ended up in fourth with 55.
Both teams cruised through their preseason friendlies, but obviously that doesn’t mean anything now that league play is back underway.
The penultimate day of the 2015-16 season saw this same fixture played. Leverkusen went ahead in the first half on a Charles Aránguiz goal, but an André Hahn brace gave Die Fohlenelf an eighth consecutive home victory.
1. The comforts of home
It’s now nine straight wins at Borussia-Park for the Foals, after André Schubert’s men made easy work of BSC Young Boys, 6-1 (9-2 on aggregate), to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League on Wednesday evening.
Home form is certainly something that can carry over from season to season. Schubert’s squad won 2.35 points per match on average at home last term, but only .88 per away game.
2. Lack of star power?
News out of Leverkusen on Tuesday was all bad for Bayer, as it was announced that both talismanic striker Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez and midfield anchor and captain Lars Bender would miss at least two weeks.
Chicharito scored 17 times last season, and with Stefan Kießling also out injured, there will need to be some new faces that step up for Die Werkself. Two new signings could be thrown into the team; Kevin Volland leading the line and Julian Baumgartlinger in defensive midfield.
3. High powered attacks look to get into gear
In the 2015-16 season, Borussia Mönchengladbach won six games by three goals or more. While Bayer Leverkusen may only have accomplished that feat on five occasions, one was a 5-0 win over Gladbach that came right before the Winterpause. There should be plenty of opportunities for the attackers in Saturday’s match as both sides will be integrating new players and still acclimating to the tactics.
Bayer Leverkusen (4-2-3-1): Bernd Leno; Tin Jedvaj, Ömer Toprak, Jonathan Tah, Wendell; Charles Aránguiz, Julian Baumgartlinger; Karim Bellarabi, Hakan Çalhanoglu, Julian Brandt; Kevin Volland.
Borussia Mönchengladbach (3-4-1-2): Yann Sommer; Jannik Vestergaard, Andreas Christiansen, Tony Jantschke; Patrick Herrmann, Christoph Kramer, Mahmoud Dahoud, Fabian Johnson; Lars Stindl; Thorgan Hazard, Raffael.