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Gladbach on the rise

Borussia-Monchengladbach-300Champions League place is on the horizon

Exactly 34 years after Borussia Monchengladbach last enjoyed elite European action - eliminated at the semi-final stage of the 1977-78 European Cup by Liverpool - the team known in Germany as Die Fohlen (the foals) finally seem to be galloping again, heading toward the top-three Bundesliga finish that would see them bedding down in a better class of European stable: the Champions League.

Foals by name, foals by nature. Boasting a squad with an average age of under 25, Gladbach’s bright young things - notably second striker or winger Marco Reus, attacking midfielder Patrick Herrmann, goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and full-back Tony Jantschke - have a vitality and fearless innocence only matched by Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund. Allied to a gaggle of wise old heads such as captain and left-back Filip Daems, Brazilian central defender Dante and former international striker Mike Hanke they have the complete package at Borussia Park.

Any way you want it, the Gladbach class of 2011 -12 can oblige, either keeping it tight at the back and sticking to a disciplined game plan, or making use of attacking assets such as lightning counter-attacks and slick combination play. As a unit they are maturing all the time, and for proof one simply has to look at this season's victories over Bayern Munich: 1 -0 at the Allianz Arena on the opening day of the season and 3-1 on their own patch in January.

Any fair appraisal of Gladbach's rude health has to include a special mention for the sensible financial husbandry of president Rolf Konigs and the value-for- money recruitment policy of director of sport Max Eberl. However, no one has done more to bring back the good times to the Lower Rhine outfit than Swiss coach Lucien Favre, the former boss of Zurich and Hertha Berlin. In only a year at the helm he is already drawing comparisons with the late Hennes Weisweiler, the coach of the great Gladbach team of the 1970s.
Headhunted by Eberl in February 2011, Favre realised from the off that he had not signed on for a picnic. With only 16 points gleaned from 22 fixtures and morale in pieces, many of the fans seemed to have accepted their fate.
But not Favre. Four months after being sacked by Hertha, this was just the sort of challenge he wanted. Critics called it "Mission Impossible"; Favre, though, saw light at the end of the tunnel.

Borussia-MonchengladbachBack from the brink

In no time at all, the players bought into Favre’s footballing philosophy: meticulous defensive organisation, tactical flexibility and clinical chance- taking. A reborn side scrapped for win after win and ultimately saved their skins with a victory over Bochum in the relegation/promotion play-offs.
Paradoxically for such an elegant playmaker with Switzerland, Lausanne, Neuchatel Xamax, Servette and Toulouse, his credo as a coach owes far more to substance and efficiency. But Favre is no dry, dogmatic theorist either. He knew full well that his team had to develop more attacking capacity and this has been spectacularly achieved in the past few months.

More successful than they have been for years, Gladbach's number one problem will be staying competitive - and already the signs are not good. Rumours abound that Favre will not see out his current contract - which runs until June 2013 - and two of their biggest stars, Reus and Dante, are scheduled to leave in the summer.

Desired by the cream of Europe, the 22-year-old dribbling ace Reus has agreed to join hometown club Dortmund in a £14.5million deal, while Dante is set to move to Bayern.
Gladbach have always ended up selling their crown jewels, waving goodbye to the likes of Gunter Netzer, Rainer Bonhof, Uli Stielike, Lothar Matthaus and Stefan Effenberg. But haemorrhaging talent never gets any easier and, should Favre go, Gladbach might fade as quickly as they rose. Over to you, Max Eberl.

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