Madrid (AP) – The starting position is favorable, but the task is enormous: Borussia Mönchengladbach must of all places take the decisive step in the hoped-for Champions League round of 16 at Real Madrid.
As the leader of group B, the Bundesliga team will participate on Wednesday (9 p.m. / DAZN) in the final of the preliminary round of the premier class. Before the final day of play, none of the four teams in the group has qualified for the knockout round and all four can still make it. At the same time, Inter Milan will play against Shakhtar Donetsk.
INITIAL SITUATION: Leader Gladbach (8 points) needs a counter in Madrid to safely reach the knockout round on his own. In a defeat against Real (7), Madrid would be further and Gladbach should hope for a draw between Inter (5) and Donetsk (7). Madrid must win to be safely in the round of 16. With a defeat, Los Blancos would fail for the first time in a preliminary round of the Champions League. A draw would only be enough for international Toni Kroos’ team if Inter won. For Gladbach, unlike Real, it is clear: the European Cup will certainly continue. If Borussia misses the round of 16, they will play in the Europa League in 2021.
STAFF: Gladbach is very concerned about the defense. Tony Jantschke is still injured, Ramy Bensebaini is still missing after his corona quarantine. At Nico Elvedi, at least one permanent central defender is back after his muscle injury, but whether he can play is the question. National player Jonas Hofmann is still injured. At Real, defensive veteran Sergio Ramos was specially adapted for the important game.
HISTORY: “We can create something historical for ourselves. We look forward to our task and want to use the starting position for ourselves,” said Borussia coach Marco Rose. It was not pathos, but the truth. In their third Champions League participation, Borussia has to enter the knockout round for the first time. In the previous match (European Champion’s Cup), the five-time German champion was in the round of 16 at least five times, in 1977 even in the final (1: 3 against Liverpool).
OPPONENTS: Real Madrid is considered the ultimate in world football, the Madrid jersey is a myth. “I will never forget the feeling that I am wearing the Real white jersey for the first time,” said Uli Stielike, who won titles as a player with both clubs, of the “Rheinische Post” (Wednesday). With 13 “Henkelpötten”, Real is by far the record winner in the European premier class. Only: since the departure of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018, Real no longer plays at the highest European level. For the first time ever, Los Blancos could fail in a qualifying round of the Champions League. The pressure is enormous and this can also cost coach Zinedine Zidane the job.
MONEY: Borussia has made around € 32 million in the Champions League so far. In the case of a round of 16, a further 9.5 million euros plus the UEFA points bonuses (900,000 euros per meter) would be added. In the Europa League, Borussia would have to reach the final to earn the same there.
OUTLOOK: The Champions League round of 16 will be drawn next Monday. The game is played in February and March. The draw for the sixteenth finals of the Europa League will take place on the same day. The first and second stage should be ready by the end of February.