Borussia Monchengladbach can sustain their place in the Bundesliga's top four this season as they prepare to return to the Champions League, according to former forward Rob Friend.

Gladbach will play in the Champions League for the first time in four years after a final-day win over Hertha Berlin sealed a top-four finish in 2019-20, behind champions Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig.

Having missed out on fourth spot to Bayer Leverkusen on the final matchday in 2018-19, Gladbach bounced back thanks to the arrival of head coach Marco Rose and shrewd signings, including Marcus Thuram, Breel Embolo, Stefan Lainer and Ramy Bensebaini.

Gladbach have added Hannes Wolf and Valentino Lazaro (both loanees) to a squad boasting captain Lars Stindl, star Denis Zakaria, Christoph Kramer, Alassane Plea, Matthias Ginter, Nico Elvedi and Yann Sommer.

As Gladbach embark on just their third Champions League campaign, not before opening their Bundesliga season at Dortmund on Saturday, Friend is not surprised by the club's success.

"It's a huge achievement for the model of club that they are," Friend, who spent three seasons at Gladbach and helped the club earn promotion to the Bundesliga in 2007-08 before leaving in 2010, told Stats Perform News. 

"They've obviously, over the last five-10 years, punched above their weight in my opinion. They've done a phenomenal recruiting job. They really have a nice template of what the club is, the identity. Really strategic recruiting with the right players and maximising them. Selling them at their peak. They have a nice model. 

"All credit, obviously it's an entire organisation but the sporting director [Max Eberl], he was there when I was there, has done an outstanding job with everything - scouting, recruiting. Once you get to that level of knowing what club you are, the identity and template to follow, I'm not saying it's easy but you've seen success is slowly built and the base foundation is getting better and stronger. 

"It's no surprise in terms of how stable they are. Once in a while reaching the Champions League. When I say once in a while, the top five or six clubs in the Bundesliga, it's very competitive. We all know the top two and after that, you have the big spenders like Leverkusen who can spend, you never know with Schalke. But based on the years and the base Gladbach have built, it's no surprise they've now reached the Champions League. The question is can they sustain the top four in the league and I believe they can because they have the right base."

Rose has played an instrumental role in Gladbach's success after being lured to Borussia-Park by Eberl last year.

After winning back-to-back league titles and the Austrian Cup with Salzburg, Rose replaced Dieter Hecking and he oversaw Gladbach's best start to a Bundesliga season since 1976-77, having topped the table through 14 matchdays following a memorable victory against Bayern.

While Gladbach were unable to maintain their place atop the table in pursuit of a first Bundesliga crown since 1977, they returned to Europe's premier club competition as Friend hailed the 44-year-old coach.

"He's in the new group of modern young coaches," ex-Canada international Friend said. "With him, he's had the opportunity to learn and not get thrown into a big club as an inexperienced coach. He's allowed himself the right steps to learn. Rolling into the Bundesliga with a club who are very stable. He has the ability but he has provided himself the ladder and learning opportunities. Smart enough to know Gladbach are a very stable club. 

"For example, the Hamburgs, Stuttgarts and Schalkes, they've very unstable. You look at the rotation of coaches. For a young coach to walk into one of those environments is risky. Any coach walking into a club like Gladbach with the stability they have, definitely sets you up for success. It's the path to get there where he has honed his skills."

All eyes will again be on Gladbach midfielder Zakaria, who has established himself as one of the Bundesliga's finest talents.

Zakaria's exploits since joining Gladbach in 2017 have reportedly attracted interest from Premier League champions Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Bayern, Dortmund and Inter.

Friend believes the 23-year-old Switzerland international - who is contracted to Gladbach until 2022 - could command a similar fee that saw Kai Havertz swap Leverkusen for Chelsea in an initial £72million (€80m) deal.

"He's obviously the big name they throw around in terms of who is going to make the next move," Friend said. "Overall the Bundesliga, let's probably remove the top two in Bayern and Dortmund. You look at what Kai Havertz did at Leverkusen. Close to €100m move. That just shows you don't have to be a top club to achieve those transfer fees. 

"I think if you're Gladbach you're looking at a player like that. He has a pretty hefty price tag on him. As these players move on, whether it's Havertz, Werner etc it will be important that they have the success with the price tags they have on them. When I was playing, maybe you had a guy moving for five-10m outside the top two clubs and it was very important they had success in those leagues to substantiate the price tags that league is demanding. 

"He certainly comes with a price tag that would eliminate most clubs. I know Gladbach won't stop him from moving but it will come with a major transfer fee and certainly there would be clubs watching who would be willing to pay. The rest is a bit of luck. Make sure he has a strong season and stays healthy."

Friend played with two highly rated prospects during his time at Gladbach - German duo Marco Reus and Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Attacking star Reus spent three years at Gladbach before returning to boyhood club Dortmund in 2012, having been released six years earlier, while goalkeeper Ter Stegen emerged from Gladbach's youth system in 2010 and was eventually snapped up by LaLiga giants Barcelona in 2014.

Friend added: "By day one in training, you saw he [Reus] was something special. What stood out was his character. At the time, he maybe seemed like a hotshot with his character but he absolutely knew he had it from day one. An 18-year-old with that kind of confidence is almost a differentiator. He had the talent but the confidence, he didn't really give a s***. He knew what he wanted. There was no doubt he had the talent but it certainly takes more than that.

"With Ter Stegen, I would say even more so. He was 17 or so when I was there. Third or fourth keeper when he first started coming into practice. We would joke in the changing room and call him Oliver Kahn as a joke because he presented himself very confidently, his chest was out, his head was high as an 18-year-old kid coming into practice. I was blown away with the confidence he had, especially as a goalkeeper. He had so much confidence and work ethic. He was always the first one there and last to leave training."

Borussia Dortmund's season-opening Bundesliga fixture at home to Borussia Monchengladbach is set to be played in front of around 10,000 supporters.

Bundesliga clubs have reportedly been given the green light for fans to return to stadiums for the start of the 2020-21 season in Germany amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2019-20 campaign resumed behind closed doors in May due to COVID-19, which forced the league to be postponed in March.

But with the new Bundesliga season scheduled to kick off on Friday, a trial is set to take place – up to 20 per cent of stadium capacity can be used, while strict hygiene requirements will be imposed, and alcohol banned.

Away fans will not be allowed to attend, though a game would be forced back behind closed doors if the infection rate in the home city is too high over a seven-day period.

Dortmund on Tuesday announced that a small crowd will be in attendance for Saturday's showdown against Gladbach at Signal Iduna Park, where only Dortmund or North Rhine-Westphalia residents will be granted access.

"The Bundesliga teams, but also the clubs and associations of other sports, can be very happy today, and we definitely have this feeling at BVB," said Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke in a statement.

"I would like to thank everyone in politics who contributed to today's decision in the past few weeks. At the same time, I feel a great obligation that we as clubs, together with the fans involved, will handle this probationary period extremely responsibly in the coming weeks. The now approved partial re-admission of viewers is in any case a very important step for all football fans in Germany. "

Last season saw Dortmund finish second to rivals Bayern Munich, while Gladbach secured a top-four spot as they qualified for the Champions League.

Valentino Lazaro has joined Borussia Monchengladbach on loan from Inter for the 2020-21 season.

The 24-year-old Austria international signed from Hertha Berlin last year but only played six times in Serie A before heading to Newcastle United on loan in January.

He played 15 times for the Magpies in all competitions, scoring twice.

Speaking of the deal, Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl told the club's website: "We're delighted that the loan move has gone through and that Tino has chosen to come to Borussia.

"He is a very versatile player and adds even more strength and depth to our squad."

Gladbach will start the new Bundesliga season against Borussia Dortmund on September 18.

They finished fourth last term to secure a place in the group stages of the Champions League.

Bayern Munich are set to face Schalke in the opening game of the 2020-21 Bundesliga season.

Hansi Flick's side are slated to kick off the defence of their title against Schalke at the Allianz Arena on Friday, September 18.

However, if Bayern reach the final of the Champions League, which is scheduled for August 23, their meeting with Schalke will take place on September 21.

The new season would then start with Borussia Dortmund taking on Borussia Monchengladbach instead.

Bayern and Dortmund's first meeting of the season will take place in the DFL-Supercup at the Allianz Arena on September 30.

A Bundesliga Klassiker will unfold at Signal Iduna Park on matchday seven, which runs from November 6-8. The return league match will be staged between March 5-8.

Matchday 32 could prove key in a potential title race, with Bayern entertaining Gladbach and Dortmund at home to RB Leipzig.

Bayern will conclude their top-flight campaign at home to Bavarian rivals Augsburg on May 22, while Dortmund will entertain Bayer Leverkusen.

Matthias Ginter is to remain at Borussia Monchengladbach despite reported interest from a host of European clubs.

The Germany centre-back has been linked with the likes of Chelsea, Inter and Atletico Madrid.

However, after a 2019-20 season that saw Gladbach finish fourth in the Bundesliga and qualify for the Champions League, Ginter wants to help the Foals take the next step.

"I'm definitely staying in Gladbach," Ginter told Kicker magazine.

"Of course I heard of the enquiries and was flattered by this attention, but I've said often enough how good things are for me in Gladbach.

"This team has huge potential. And the coach [Marco Rose] gives us a great deal of added value.

"With the amazing fans and surroundings here, this club is currently in the process of building something. I share these big ambitions and I also have a contract here."

Luis Suarez is eager to stay at Barcelona amid MLS interest, while Chelsea may have a choice to make.

Suarez, 33, is out of contract at the LaLiga giants next year and has been linked with a move away.

The forward seemingly has options.

 

TOP STORY – SUAREZ WANTS BARCELONA STAY AMID INTER MIAMI INTEREST

Suarez has no intention of leaving Barcelona, according to Sport.

It comes after Mundo Deportivo reported Suarez has an offer from MLS club Inter Miami, but wants to extend his stay at Barca beyond 2021.

Suarez has scored 19 goals in 34 games in 2019-20.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea are linked with further moves this close season. But Sport Bild reports Atletico Madrid are relaxed over the Premier League club's interest in Jan Oblak, with the LaLiga side doubting Chelsea can afford both the goalkeeper and Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz.

- Philippe Coutinho is expected to make a permanent move from Barcelona. Mundo Deportivo claims Arsenal are best-placed to land the playmaker and Barca want only money for the Brazil international.

- Bayern Munich have set their price for Thiago Alcantara, who is linked with a move to Liverpool. Sport Bild says the Bundesliga champions want £27.2m (€30m) for the midfielder.

- Could Manchester City have received a transfer boost? Sport Bild reports David Alaba's contract talks with Bayern Munich are at a stalemate. Alaba is out of contract at Bayern next year and has been linked to City.

- Jesse Lingard's time at Manchester United could be over. The Daily Mail says United are prepared to sell the midfielder, who has been linked to Roma and Borussia Monchengladbach.

Michael Cuisance described his move to Bayern Munich as "one of the best choices of my career" despite limited game time during his maiden campaign with Die Roten.

The French midfielder joined from Bundesliga rivals Borussia Monchengladbach in a reported €10million deal last August.

However, Cuisance has made just 10 appearances in all competitions this season, with only three of those coming as part of the starting XI.

Bayern have a plethora of options in midfield but Cuisance, 20, believes learning every day from world-class players in his position will stand him in good stead for the future.

"It was one of the best choices of my career," he told L'Equipe about joining Bayern. 

"It is a club where I can settle for years. I learn from the best players in the world. I can only grow. It was not easy at first because I was not playing, but I decided to move on."

Cuisance also dismissed the notion that his move to the Allianz Arena was a risk.

"A risk? Why? I have five years ahead of me," he added. 

"My head is conditioned for this kind of club, for the high level. There are great players but I know I can succeed."

Borussia Monchengladbach sporting director Max Eberl says trying to close the gap to Bayern Munich is like him chasing down Usain Bolt.

Bayern defeated Bayer Leverkusen in the DFB-Pokal final on Saturday to complete a domestic double, having wrapped up their eighth straight Bundesliga title-winning campaign the weekend prior.

Gladbach were early pacesetters in the top flight as the Bavarian giants struggled to get going under Niko Kovac, but they ended up sealing fourth on the final day of the season.

The difference between the teams was 17 points and Eberl likened Gladbach attempting to catch up to himself in a race with eight-time Olympic gold medallist Bolt, who holds the world record in the 100 metres and 200m.

Asked if the Foals could lead the rest of the Bundesliga's attempts to topple Bayern, Eberl told Kicker: "It's as realistic as if I challenge Usain Bolt to the 100 metres and think I can win.

"Maybe I'll be at the front at the start. Maybe he stumbles in between. But the likelihood that Usain Bolt will end up in front of me, and Bayern Munich before Gladbach, is very high.

"It's not 100 per cent but is clearly in the region of 90 per cent."

However, he added: "We will not give up and throw in the towel. We are working on getting even better."

Gladbach's hopes of making significant personnel improvements in the close season have been hit by a loss of revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic that could end up in the region of €30million.

"We will not now storm the transfer market and buy big-name players," said Eberl.

"Coronavirus hit us to the core. The [financial] reserves melt like ice in the sun. The big picture will be even more important in the future, not just having an eye on sport."

Bayer Leverkusen were denied a place in next season's Champions League after Borussia Monchengladbach defeated Hertha Berlin.

Gladbach earned a 2-1 home victory over Hertha on Saturday to ensure they will be back in Europe's elite club competition for the first time since the 2016-17 campaign.

They were denied a place in the top four on the final day of last season when they lost at home to Borussia Dortmund while Leverkusen beat Hertha.

But Gladbach ensured there would be no repeat and this time they were celebrating after defeating the side from Berlin.

Jonas Hofmann's seventh-minute opener settled any nerves for the hosts.

He was set up by Breel Embolo and roles were reversed when Hofmann created Gladbach's crucial second with 12 minutes remaining, which was scored by the Switzerland striker.

Vedad Ibisevic got one back for Hertha but Gladbach were not to be denied.

It meant disappointment for Leverkusen even though they did what was required of them to stand a chance of qualifying, defeating Mainz 1-0 at home courtesy of Kevin Volland's second-minute goal.

Last week's defeat at Hertha ultimately proved costly for Leverkusen, with Gladbach surging up to fourth with three straight wins to wrap up the season.

Leverkusen will hope to bounce back in the DFB-Pokal final against Bayern Munich on July 4, while they are also still in the Europa League.

RB Leipzig, meanwhile, were all but mathematically certain of a Champions League spot going into the final day of the campaign.

They sealed a third-place finish with a battling 2-1 win at Augsburg, with Timo Werner scoring a double on his final appearance for the club.

Leipzig would have ended up fourth had Werner not scored the winner 10 minutes from time.

Champions Bayern ultimately finished 13 points clear of Dortmund at the top. 

Dortmund were three ahead of Leipzig, who finished on 66 points, while Gladbach and Leverkusen ended up with 65 and 63 respectively.

Hoffenheim's win over Dortmund on the last day saw them move above Wolfsburg, who lost against Bayern, to finish sixth and ensure automatic entry to the Europa League group stage.

Seventh-placed Wolfsburg will now have to go through the qualifying rounds.

Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara returned to light raining on Monday.

Thiago underwent a groin operation following the DFB-Pokal semi-final victory over Eintracht Frankfurt on June 10.

The Spain international was back at their Saebener Strasse training ground on Monday, undertaking some light jogging.

Boss Hansi Flick previously suggested Thiago could be able to return for the DFB-Pokal final against Bayer Leverkusen on July 4.

Bayern wrap up their triumphant Bundesliga campaign against Wolfsburg on Saturday.

Bayern Munich left-back Alphonso Davies has won the Bundesliga Rookie of the Year award for 2019-20.

The 19-year-old has been a revelation on the left side of the Bayern defence, helping them to storm to an eighth successive league title following Hansi Flick's appointment as coach, initially on a short-term basis, last November.

The Canada star came out on top in a poll in which fans, clubs and Bundesliga pundits voted.

He beat Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland to the prize, despite the striker having twice been named Rookie of the Month since joining from Salzburg in January.

Borussia Monchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram, Cologne defender Ismail Jakobs and Jonjoe Kenny, on loan at Schalke from Everton, were also nominated.

To qualify as a Bundesliga 'rookie', a player must be under the age of 23 when a season starts and cannot have started a Bundesliga match in any previous campaign.

He must also have played no more than 450 minutes of action across previous seasons.

Davies recorded a top speed of 36.51 kilometres per hour in Bayern Munich's 1-0 win at Werder Bremen last Tuesday, the fastest of any Bundesliga player since at least 2013-14. He was later sent off for two yellow cards.

He has played 28 times in the league this season, having moved to Germany from Vancouver Whitecaps last January.

Hansi Flick told his Bayern Munich stars to go out and finish the job in Bremen on Tuesday after moving to the brink of Bundesliga title glory.

The head coach, who took over from Niko Kovac in November, secured a 25th win in 28 games as Bayern boss thanks to a late  Leon Goretzka strike on Saturday.

It earned a 2-1 win over Borussia Monchengladbach as an off-colour Bayern dug deep to snatch three more points.

What it meant is that Bayern restored a seven-point lead over second-placed Borussia Dortmund, and only three rounds of fixtures remain.

Victory over Werder Bremen at the Weserstadion on Tuesday would make certain of an eighth successive Bundesliga championship.

"We were able to maintain our distance with the win, this big result makes me very happy," Flick said.

"In Bremen we want to seal the deal and continue our streak of success.

"I am absolutely happy, also because we have put together a fantastic run in 2020. As a coach and as a coaching team, we can be very pleased."

Bayern were unconvincing at times, but without the suspended Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski it was always likely to be a tricky assignment.

Gladbach are attempting to earn a Champions League place for next season, and the defeat harms their chances of finishing in fourth.

Bayern, typically, pushed to the final whistle and Flick, quoted on the official Bundesliga website, said: "I am happy that the team implemented our plan as they did. Even after the tough cup match during the week."

That DFB-Pokal win was a 2-1 success against Eintracht Frankfurt that carried Bayern through to a final next month against Bayer Leverkusen.

The Bavarian giants are firmly in the hunt for a domestic double, and remain serious contenders for the Champions League.

Gladbach coach Marco Rose can only dream of the success Flick is enjoying, and he was admiring of Bayern's spirit.

"The goals we conceded resulted from courage," Rose said. "Bayern believed they could succeed until the final whistle, and we want to acquire that."

Leon Goretzka scored a late winner as Bayern Munich restored their seven-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga with a 2-1 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach.

Without the suspended Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller, Bayern were well below par but were gifted the opener shortly after the visitors had been denied by a VAR decision.

Joshua Zirkzee broke the deadlock in the 26th minute as Gladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer's ill-advised pass went straight to the feet of Lewandowski's replacement.

Benjamin Pavard's own goal 11 minutes later levelled matters, but Goretzka caught the Gladbach defence napping four minutes from time to extinguish any realistic prospect of a late turnaround in the title race.

Bayern Munich could be crowned Bundesliga champions for an eighth straight year on Saturday – yet coach Hansi Flick expects nearest rivals Borussia Dortmund to keep his team waiting.

Should Dortmund lose away to lowly Fortuna Dusseldorf, then a Bayern home win against Borussia Monchengladbach later in the day would secure the silverware.

They would be 10 points clear with three rounds of games remaining.

However, Flick is minded to think Dortmund will not slip up in Dusseldorf.

"Dortmund will do everything to win that game," Flick said. "Every footballer has the drive to give everything as long as something is still possible.

"We will focus on our game, which we want to win. The game will be difficult because Gladbach are a good team."

Bayern are hampered by the absence of their chief goal creator as well as their most potent finisher, which means there could be a glimpse into the team's future this weekend.

Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski are both suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards, meaning Joshua Zirkzee is a likely starter against Gladbach.

The 19-year-old Dutch forward has shown fleeting glimpses of his talent this season but has played just 191 minutes in the Bundesliga, scoring three goals in that time.

Otschi Wriedt, a 25-year-old Ghanaian from Bayern's reserve-team ranks, has also been promoted to the senior squad for the Allianz Arena match. 

Flick says he has "one or two options" for replacing Muller and Lewandowski, and he was reported to have spent extra time with Zirkzee in training on Thursday

"He is a good size and is nevertheless very agile, has a good finish and holds the ball well," Flick said of the teenager.

"These are things that you need as a striker here with us. He is on the right track and for tomorrow is definitely a good alternative. Joshua also has the trust of the other players."

Flick said there was an element of tiredness in Bayern's performance during Wednesday's DFB-Pokal win over Eintracht Frankfurt but stressed that his team "want to keep going".

There is a possible treble for them this season, with a cup final against Bayer Leverkusen on July 4 followed in August by the anticipated completion of the Champions League.

Thiago Alcantara misses out this weekend and will be absent for the rest of the Bundesliga campaign following groin surgery, while Niklas Sule and Philippe Coutinho are close to returning to training with the squad after injury and could yet feature again in this campaign.

Flick spoke on Friday of Muller's leadership qualities, and whether they might be missed, suggesting the team would pull together to share responsibility.

"Thomas Muller is certainly someone who leads the team," Flick said, quoted on Bayern's official website.

"But we will replace that together tomorrow. The important thing is that we tackle the whole thing as a team."

Peter Bosz is optimistic Bayern Munich will do Bayer Leverkusen a favour on Saturday when the Bundesliga leaders face Champions League hopefuls Borussia Monchengladbach.

Leverkusen head into the weekend just outside the top four in the table, though they only sit behind Gladbach on goal difference.

But, in theory, the two sides have contrasting challenges coming up. Gladbach head to the home of in-form defending champions Bayern, while Leverkusen will be hosted the following day by a Schalke side who have taken a single point from their five matches since the season resumed.

David Wagner is under significant pressure at Schalke and Leverkusen will be overwhelming favourites, despite being the away team.

Bosz hopes they can overcome their hosts and move back into the top four, but that will require some assistance from a Bayern side that will be without key players Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller due to suspension.

"Of course, we can take an important step when you see that a direct competitor [for the Champions League places] is playing away in Munich," Bosz said on Friday.

"Although, I have to say that with Muller and Lewandowski, two important players are missing. Those are two leaders. That will make a big difference.

"But still, Bayern normally has to win this game. We know that, but there's no point looking at the game if we don't win against Schalke ourselves, and that won't be easy, of course.

"I've always said that there are no easy games in the Bundesliga. That also applies to us, but if a direct competitor plays against Bayern, then maybe that's an opportunity for us [to overtake them]."

Bosz confirmed Exequiel Palacios is a doubt due to illness, however the midfielder is just suffering from a sickness bug, rather than coronavirus.

"So, today three players did not train," he added. "Palacios was sick last night. I hope he'll be better tomorrow.

"Well, he doesn't have the illness we've been talking about in the last months, just for your information."

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