Borussia Mönchengladbach v Manchester City
Wednesday 24 February, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2
Rose battling to save Foals’ season
After his side lost 2-1 at home to second-bottom Mainz, Borussia Mönchengladbach boss Marco Rose admitted the result would do little to quell the noise and anger surrounding the club at the moment.
Rose’s decision to join Borussia Dortmund at the end of the campaign has infuriated some of the club’s fans and disappointed some players who felt Rose had misled them about his plans. The coach has accepted responsibility for the disruption caused, but sporting director Max Eberl is refusing to countenance the idea of jettisoning Rose now.
It is wrong to suggest that the recent controversy has derailed the campaign. The Foals have been dropping points against the lesser lights all season, and wins over Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig have made those failures look worse.
With clubs like Wolfsburg and Eintracht Frankfurt finding consistency, there is a serious danger that Mönchengladbach will miss out on European qualification for next season.
Qualifying for the knockout stage of the Champions League is a lucrative and impressive achievement, but if we break it down, there is little to strike fear into Manchester City’s hearts. Rose’s side blew leads late on against Inter and Real Madrid, before losing the reverse fixtures. Their qualification was based on two big wins against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Midfielder Denis Zakaria and forward Marcus Thuram are both struggling with knocks, but could still be involved in some capacity.
Relentless City have a point to prove
Manchester City’s storming sequence of 18 straight wins in all competitions has set them up to regain their Premier League title (they are 10 points clear with 13 games left) and it has seen them installed as 3.9 favourites to win the Champions League.
I have argued from the start of the season that City’s UCL fate won’t be decided until they are truly tested in the quarter-finals onwards. That has been where City and Pep Guardiola’s demons have repeatedly struck.
That said, there is a lot to like about the way this City team is operating. Ruben Dias has become the defensive strongman and leader that anyone who had seen him at Benfica knew he could become. Ilkay Gundogan has put his injury misery behind him to become an incredibly versatile midfielder who regularly affects the game. Kevin de Bruyne is back from injury to show why he’s one of Europe’s top players, while Phil Foden is one of the sport’s most promising young performers, and talented full-back Joao Cancelo is thriving.
City haven’t conceded multiple goals in a game since a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham in November. In the 25 matches they have played since, they have leaked just seven goals. By any measure, that is an extraordinary achievement, and the Expected Goals data shows it’s no fluke.
Nathan Ake is the only absentee through injury, and Guardiola may bring Foden and Rodri back into the starting XI.
Foals to be outgunned and outclassed
This game is taking place on neutral territory in Budapest because of COVID-related travel restrictions, and I can’t see anything but a comfortable City victory. Gladbach have some really talented players, especially Lars Stindl and Florian Neuhaus in midfield, but their anaemic performance at Real Madrid on matchday six told us a lot about the team’s lack of readiness for challenges at this level.
Gladbach have won just one of their last five competitive games, and players like Alassane Plea (two goals in his last 12 appearances) and Marcus Thuram (five goals in his last 25 matches) are out of form. At the other end, Gladbach have conceded multiple goals in 10 of their last 17 outings.
A ruthless City should win this with room to spare, and I’ll happily back them -1 on the Handicap at 1.9110/11 on the Sportsbook.
Market expects goals
Over 2.5 Goals is trading at a skinny 1.594/7 here, and I understand why to an extent. All but one of Gladbach’s group games featured at least four goals, as did their wins over Bayern and Dortmund in 2021.
However, Gladbach haven’t played against a team that controls games in the way City are doing right now, and the kind of wild ride they’ve experienced in the Champions League and Bundesliga simply might not happen. Under 2.5 Goals looks a touch too big at 2.6213/8.
Gundogan to enjoy familiar clash
Ilkay Gundogan excelled for Borussia Dortmund in his time in the Bundesliga, and indeed he was a team-mate at Signal Iduna Park of Gladbach defender Matthias Ginter. Guardiola has encouraged Gundogan to burst into the box more and he has rattled in eight goals in his last 10 games. In the Premier League he’s averaging pretty much one shot on target per game, and across both the PL and UCL he’s attempting about two shots per match.
The German international will get chances to score here against a fragile team that’s out of shape. I’ll back him as an anytime goalscorer at 13/10 on the Sportsbook.