Borussia Mönchengladbach clinched their place in the group stage of the Champions League this week. Now their attention turns to the Bundesliga, and improving on last year’s fourth-place finish.
Borussia Mönchengladbach delivered a dominant performance in the second leg of their Champions League qualifying playoff tie against Swiss side Young Boys, to earn their place in the group stage. Thorgan Hazard and Raffael both scored hat tricks as the Foals demolished the Young Boys by a score of 6-1. This put the Bundsliga club through on an aggregate score of 9-2. Admittedly the Swiss league is not the Bundesliga, but still, Gladbach hope to take this momentum into their domestic campaign.
Transfers: An old face returns
Gladbach's most significant summer signing is a player the club's faithful are already familiar with. Following two seasons on loan at the club between 2013 and 2015, Christoph Kramer has made his move to the Borussia Park permanent and is meant to be the long-term replacement for Grant Xhaka, who left for Arsenal back in May. Kramer is to anchor the midfield along with Dahoud and hopes are high that the former Leverkusen youth product can replicate the form he showed during his loan spell. The midfield has been further bolstered by the arrival of Slovak Lazslo Benes from Lazio.
Gladbach's Achilles heel last season was their shaky defence, and Andre Schubert has addressed this by acquiring Danish international defender Jannik Westergaard from Werder Bremen and up-and-coming French defender Mamadou Doucoure, signed from Paris Saint-Germain.
Head coach: Andre Schubert
After Schubert took over from Lucien Favre on early last season, Gladbach appeared reluctant to remove the "interim" from his job description, given how he turned their fortunes around last season from losing the opening five games (under Favre) to qualifying for the Champions League, the decision was a no-brainer. The challenge for Schubert now is to ensure his side take the momentum of last season into the new campaign, and really establish Gladbach as a permanent fixture in the top four.
Once of Schubert's strengths is developing young players and, in Mahmoud Dahoud, Andreas Christensen and Nico Elvedi, he has three of the Bundesliga's most promising young talents at his disposal. Indeed, Granit Xhaka, still only 23, enjoyed the best season of his career under Schubert before departing. There is a sense of confidence around the Borussia Park about what Schubert can achieve this season, both domestically and in the Champions League.
Key player: Raffael
At 31, Raffael is a veteran, but he remains the key member of the team. Only Henrikh Mkhitaryan clocked up more goals and assists combined than the Brazilian in the Bundesliga last season and his ability to cause havoc between the opposition's defense and midfield makes him difficult to track and even harder to stop. Gladbach are one of the Bundesliga's most attacking and exciting teams and much of that is down to Raffael. If he can carry the form he displayed in Gladbach's Champions League qualifying playoff into the new Bundesliga season, the Foals should enjoy another fruitful campaign.
What to expect: Top four
With the likes of Schalke and Wolfsburg showing little sign of improving on last season, there is a great opportunity for Gladbach to cement their place in the top four and maybe even challenge the big two. While anything higher than a third-place finish is highly unlikely, the Foals are a team on the up, guided by a talented coach and blessed with an exciting crop of youngsters. If the likes of Thorgan Hazard, Mahmoud Dahoud and Andreas Christensen can continue to improve, there's a chance Gladbach can go one better than last season's fourth-place finish.