Gladbach and Favre Aim For Great Escape

Posted on May 1, 2011


After a 3-1 loss at St Pauli in early February which put Gladbach seven points adrift at the bottom of the Bundesliga, President Rolf Königs and Sporting Director Max Eberl took the decision to sack under-fire head coach Michael Frontzeck, with Gladbach having notched up just 16 points in 22 games.

53-year-old Swiss coach Lucien Favre was brought in on a two-year contract and was handed the near-impossible task of steering the once German giants away from relegation to Bundesliga.2.

Favre’s tenure at Borussia Park got off to a storming start with a 2-1 over Schalke who themselves were struggling under Felix Magath and he was eventually relieved of his duties in Gelsenkirchen.

Since then, Gladbach have notched up another 10 points in nine games, including victories over Hoffenheim, Koln, Borussia Dortmund and Hannover, and have moved kept the dream of staying in the Bundesliga alive with just two points separating Gladbach and 16th place which is the relegation play-off position. Wolfsburg, in 15th place and outside the relegation places, are just the three points ahead of Die Fohlen.

And with two games remaining, Gladbach are in an excellent position to complete the Great Escape which was unimaginable just three months ago.

Despite Wolfsburg looking rejuvenated under Felix Magath, and with the two final games weighing heavily in their advantage, Lucien Favre will not give up hope of rescuing Gladbach from relegation after they notched superb wins against Dortmund and Hannover.

It is an intriguing relegation battle that will come down the last two matchdays of the season.

Gladbach, Frankfurt and Wolfsburg are all in the battle to stay in the Bundesliga and one last victory for Wolfsburg, either against Kaiserslutern or Hoffenheim, could be enough to seal 15th-place ahead of their rivals.

Frankfurt currently have the safety net of the relegation play-off against the third-placed team in Bundesliga.2, currently VfL Bochum, but have yet to win under current coach Christoph Daum.

Daum replaced Michael Skibbe in April and has yet to win from his five matches as Eintracht Frankfurt head coach and with their last two matches against Koln and Dortmund, it could well work in Gladbach’s favour if Frankfurt fail to win their remaining fixtures.

Gladbach have conceded just seven goals under Lucien Favre and one of the most notable improvements in the side has been their ability to absorb pressure and giving very little away to the opposition.

Favre immediately decided to remove Christian Heimeroth of the number one jersey and has stuck mainly with Belgian keeper Logan Bailly, and in recent weeks, 19-year-old Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.

A key difference between Favre and Frontzeck this season has been Favre’s decision to stick almost with the same defence every match. The regular back-four under Favre since his arrival has Tony Jantschke at right-back, Dante and Martin Stranzl in the middle and Filip Daems at left-back.

Also, the introduction of former Arsenal youngster Havard Nordtveit as a holding midfielder has been a fantastic tactical decision from Favre with the Norwegian being a star performer since the Swiss coach’s arrival. Nordtveit has softened the blow of losing US midfielder Michael Bradley and provided excellent protection to the back-four.

And the six players mentioned, well from GK to Holding midfielder, have played a massive part in Favre’s new system that relies on a stubborn defence. On the break, Idrissou and Reus have excelled as Gladbach suck opponents towards them leaving acres of space in behind for the pacey and classy Reus to exploit. The 21-year-old is one of the hottest properties in German football and could be set for a big money move away from Gladbach in the summer.

Die Fohlen and Favre overcame a massive test on Saturday against Hannover who are chasing a Champions League position with FC Bayern. The remaining two fixtures for Gladbach, at home to seventh-placed Freiburg and away to eighth-placed Hamburg, are most definitely winnable and could be enough to gain the safety net of a relegation play-off but for automatic safety, that may require a Wolfsburg capitulation in the last two games.

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