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."

Bayern Munich will be without star duo Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller for Saturday's clash with Borussia Monchengladbach, but the latter's coach Marco Rose is adamant the champions have plenty of depth to compensate.

Lewandowski and Muller have been leading lights for a rampant Bayern this season, with the Poland striker adding his 45th goal across all competitions in the DFB-Pokal semi-final win over Eintracht Frankfurt, while the German forward took his assists tally to 23.

But, after earning yellow cards in the 4-2 weekend win at Bayer Leverkusen – a match in which they were both influential – neither will be able to feature as another of the top-four hopefuls visits the Allianz Arena.

Gladbach travel to Munich in search of a response to a disappointing 1-0 defeat at Freiburg last Friday, but Rose is not expecting Bayern to be a significantly easier obstacle to overcome just because Lewandowski and Muller will be missing.

"Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski are major players in the Bayern team. They will be suspended against us, but the club has a group capable of compensating for these absences," Rose said in his pre-match news conference.

"Hansi Flick and Bayern have developed a game idea with which they are very successful. I think they will stick to it and will not change too much. We have also prepared for this.

"To bring back a result from Munich, you have to play courageously, with and without the ball. Although Bayern played yesterday [Wednesday] in the DFB-Pokal, and the players may be accumulating fatigue, they will be able to mobilise their forces on Saturday.

"You need absolute clarity without the ball and you also have to keep the Munich team busy."

Gladbach will be without a key player themselves in Alassane Plea, as the Frenchman was shown a red card in Freiburg following two bookable offences but Rose thinks he was unlucky.

"I interact with my players every day, telling them to accept referee decisions," he said. "But I think that Alassane was put in the wrong light after his red card in Freiburg. I think the card was over the top."

Club sporting director Max Eberl held a similar view during the match and his protestations earned him a red card, meaning he too will have to watch from the stands – rather than the bench – this weekend.

He accepts he probably got a little carried away with his reaction, however.

"I accept the penalty for the red card," Eberl said. "I was too emotional on Friday after the red card. I'm sorry for my choice of words, and I will now watch the game in the stands on Saturday."

While Bayern are sitting pretty at the summit with a seven-point gap heading into the final four matches, Gladbach – holders of the fourth and final Champions League spot – are only ahead of Leverkusen on goal difference.

Borussia Monchengladbach coach Marco Rose was left frustrated and annoyed after his side's 1-0 loss to Freiburg in the Bundesliga on Friday.

Nils Petersen's 58th-minute goal lifted Freiburg to a surprise win and left Gladbach, who finished with 10 men after Alassane Plea's red card, in fourth in the table.

Rose rued the defeat as his team were left in danger of falling out of the Champions League qualification places.

"I'm incredibly frustrated after any defeat. Of course they're even more annoying when you're pushing hard for your goals at the end of the season and the way the game played out doesn't help either," he said, via the club's website.

"We had a very good first half and then in the second half we defended one set-piece very badly and got a red card, so it's a defeat that we could certainly have done without.

"We showed a lot of desire, invested a great deal and dominated Freiburg. We knew that they're dangerous from set-pieces, so we shouldn't even be giving away the free-kick in the first place.

"The lads have high aspirations and are of course disappointed with the result as well. We have to digest it first and then come Monday we will start to look ahead to the game in Munich."

The game's only goal came via Petersen, who headed in a Vincenzo Grifo set-piece, before Plea picked up a second yellow card with 23 minutes remaining.

Borussia Monchengladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer lamented the way his side switched off for Petersen's winner.

"We played well in the first half and had a number of good chances. Unfortunately, we didn't get a goal. After the break, Freiburg made the most of a free-kick and took the lead," he said.

"The result is obviously anything but ideal, but we will push on. We invested a lot into the game, playing with real energy and power.

"We actually put in a good performance I thought, but we went to sleep for one minute. We still have four more games and want to bounce back next week in Munich by picking up points."

Borussia Monchengladbach make the trip to Bayern Munich on June 13, while eighth-placed Freiburg visit Wolfsburg on the same day.

Marco Rose was proud of Marcus Thuram taking a knee in celebration after scoring against Union Berlin, with the Borussia Monchengladbach coach adding the striker has "set an example".

Thuram scored twice as Gladbach boosted their Champions League hopes with a convincing 4-1 victory on Sunday, with Florian Neuhaus and Alassane Plea also finding the net.

However, it was Thuram's celebration after his first goal - Gladbach's second - that grabbed the headlines, as the 22-year-old took a knee, seemingly in relation to ongoing civil unrest in the United States following the death of George Floyd while being arrested in Minnesota this week.

Asked for his opinion on the celebration, Gladbach coach Rose gave Thuram his full backing.

"Marcus has made the point. He has set an example against racism that we all support," Rose told reporters.

Rose was not the only one to offer their support, with Real Betis' Marc Bartra sharing an image of Thuram's celebration on his official Twitter account with the caption "#BlackLivesMatter" and "#NoToRacism".

Reflecting on a fine display from his side, which saw the Foals move up to third place, Rose, speaking to the club's official website, added: "We implemented what we set out to do very well.

"Union Berlin fought back and kept going. With the ball we exuded a certain dominance, even if we may have made one or two simple mistakes. 

"Nevertheless, we scored four beautiful goals and so I am very happy with the performance and of course with the result."

Marc-Andre ter Stegen's future has dominated headlines.

The Barcelona goalkeeper has been linked with a move away from Camp Nou, where his current contract expires at the end of 2021-22.

But the Germany international appears on the verge of extending his stay at Barcelona.

 

TOP STORY – TER STEGEN POISED FOR BARCA RENEWAL

Marc-Andre ter Stegen will sign a long-term contract with Barcelona, according to Friday's front page of Diario Sport.

Ter Stegen and Barca have been deadlocked over talks regarding a new deal, prompting speculation about the Germany international's future.

The Barca goalkeeper had been linked to Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich before Manuel Neuer extended his contract in Bavaria.

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid and Inter have enquired about Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero, says Gazzetta dello Sport journalist Nicolo Schira. Dismissing talks between Napoli and Aguero, Schira claims City do not want to sell the Argentina international.

- Sport Mediaset reports Edinson Cavani has set his personal terms to Inter. The Paris Saint-Germain veteran is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked with Atletico Madrid. However, the Uruguayan has reportedly told Atletico his agreed personal terms with the Spanish club are no longer valid as Inter eye the forward.

Barca are very optimistic regarding deals for Inter forward Lautaro Martinez and Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic, says Marca.

- According to Le10Sport, Juve have started negotiations with Mino Raiola to bring Manchester United star Paul Pogba back to Turin.

- As Roma look to make Henrikh Mkhitaryan's deal permanent, Calciomercato says Arsenal are interested in signing Justin Kluivert. Mkhitaryan has spent the 2019-20 season on loan in the Italian capital.

- Madrid forward Luka Jovic is Milan's first choice as a striker for next season, reports Schira. The Rossoneri are working on a two-year loan deal with the option to buy, however, Jovic's salary is proving problematic amid talks.

Milan's pursuit of Jovic comes as the club close in on Ralf Rangnick. According to Calciomercato, Rangnick is set to become head coach, though the German could vacate his position in season two for either RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann or Borussia Monchengladbach's Marco Rose.

- According to Mundo Deportivo, City, Juve and PSG are battling for Barca full-back Nelson Semedo. The Portugal international has also been linked to Bayern and Inter.

Hansi Flick blamed Bayern Munich's lack of clinical finishing for a 2-1 loss at Borussia Monchengladbach that left the Bundesliga champions seven points adrift of the summit.

Bayern seemed to be bouncing back strongly from their home defeat to Bayer Leverkusen last time out, enjoying a dominant first half, with Ivan Perisic firing in the opener shortly after the restart.

But they failed to get a crucial second and Gladbach, who only had one shot in the first 45 minutes, equalised when Ramy Bensebaini headed home Jonas Hofmann's corner.

Bayern's inability to kill the game came back to haunt them at the death as substitute defender Javi Martinez needlessly brought down Marcus Thuram in the box.

Martinez was shown a second yellow card and Bensebaini tucked home the penalty to keep Gladbach top of the table.

"It is important that we play football well, on the one hand," interim head coach Flick said. "We did that in the first half and created a lot of chances. 

"Of course it is annoying that we do not make the most of the possibilities, so we leave Gladbach in the game. 

"This is a situation we would normally have had to close earlier. Just as it was against Leverkusen last week. The team has the quality to score goals. 

"Unfortunately, we do not do it at the moment. In the end, it's just that the football is settled with goals."

Flick added that Jerome Boateng had to be replaced by Martinez having struggled through the game due to an injury problem.

Flick's opposite number Marco Rose has had a remarkable impact since taking charge of the Foals but he accepted Gladbach had to ride their luck to close out a sixth straight league win at home. 

"We saw two different halves. In the first half we barely had possession," he said. 

"There is always a difference between what you do against Bayern and how you implement it on the pitch. 

"We continued to play for victory and that rewarded us with the penalty goal. In the end, it is certainly a lucky victory, but it helps us a lot in the development."

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