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Europa League: Schalke face Gladbach in last 16

Schalke are set to host Borussia Mönchengladbach in the first leg of their all-German Europa League last-16 tie. This comes just days after the Foals beat the Royal Blues 4-2 in the Bundesliga.

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Schalke face Gladbach again in Europa League

Borussia Mönchengladbach are set to make the short trip northeast to Gelsenkirchen on Thursday evening for the second of three meetings with Schalke 04 in less than two weeks. Having beaten the Royal Blues 4-2 in the Bundesliga on the weekend, the teams now cross swords in the Europa League last-16 first leg.

The form of the two sides could not be more different, with Gladbach resurgent since Dieter Hecking took over from André Schubert after Christmas. They are into the semifinal of the German Cup and are the Bundesliga's in-form team in the second half the season, having won eight of their last nine league games.

A different competition

Coach Hecking gave his players two days off following Saturday's victory but has refused to allow the result to influence his team's preparations.

"It's important to strictly separate these two competitions and not read too much into the 4-2 result," he said. "Schalke are just as capable of pulling off a result like that."

Deutschland Borussia Moenchengladbach v FC Schalke 04 - Jubel (Getty Images/Bongarts/M. Hitij)

Borussia Mönchengladbach go into the Europa League tie in great form after a 4-2 win over Schalke on Saturday

Gladbach's sporting director, Max Eberl, agreed, saying: "These Europa League games will have a totally different character so I don't want to draw any conclusions from the weekend."

The Foals will be without World Cup-winning midfielder Christoph Kramer in the Veltins Arena as he serves a suspension after picking up a third yellow card in Gladbach's stunning comeback against Fiorentina in the last round. He could be replaced by Tobias Strobl who came on for the second half on the weekend after Kramer went off injured.

Center back Andreas Christensen was also substituted against Schalke after complaining of back pain but despite missing training on Tuesday morning, Hecking said "it's nothing serious and I don't think he will be a risk for Thursday."

Differing fortunes

If Gladbach are heading in the right direction under Hecking, the opposite is true of Schalke. Despite significant investment and high expectations in the summer under then newly arrived head coach Markus Weinzierl and sporting director Christian Heidel, the Royal Blues find themselves in 13th place in the Bundesliga after winning just one of their last seven league games.

Deutschland Borussia Moenchengladbach v FC Schalke 04 (Getty Images/Bongarts/C. Koepsel)

Defeat to Gladbach in the Bundesliga was just the latest setback in a difficult season for Schalke

Saturday's comprehensive defeat in Mönchengladbach was just the latest setback in Schalke's worst season (so far) in 18 years and their focus has suddenly switched from European qualification to a relegation battle. But like his Gladbach counterpart, coach Weinzierl is keen to draw a line between the two competitions.

"We've digested the defeat but tomorrow is a different competition," he told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.  "Now it's about achieving our goal of reaching the next round of the Europa League."

"We have a clear aim in this competition," he continued. "We want to progress, we want to play against the best teams and we want to use this competition to write positive headlines. The team is definitely motivated."

An all-German affair

Thursday's game represents the 35th all-German meeting in European competition, the last of which famously took place at Wembley when Bayern Munich beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the 2013 Champions League final.

Ribery und Reus (imago sportfotodienst)

Bayern Munich beat Borussia Dortmund in the 2013 Champions League final - the last all-German European match.

Borussia Mönchengladbach have played German and former East German opposition seven times in Europe, winning six but crucially losing the 1980 UEFA Cup final to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Schalke have never before played against Bundesliga opposition in Europe - but they did play East German champions and current third-division side FC Magdeburg in 1977, losing 7-3 over two legs. 

Completing a local affair, the referee for this first leg, Björn Kuipers, is also from just across the border in the Netherlands.

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