Out of all the draws for the last 16 of this season’s Champions League one that sticks out is the historic tie between Borussia Monchengladbach and tournament favourites Manchester City.
Wednesday’s opening leg will mark the first time in 43 years that Gladbach have stepped onto a football pitch in the knock-out stages of Europe’s premier tournament – they lost the semi-final 4-2 to Liverpool in the 1977/78 competition.
The dominant 70s
The 70s was the golden age for Die Fohlen. Between the 70/71 and 79/80 season four Bundesliga titles went to the city of Monchengladbach which began under the astute management of disciplinarian and pragmatist Hennes Weisweiler.
When Weisweiler left to coach Barcelona after leading Gladbach to a second title in five years Udo Lattek stepped into the breach.
Lattek wasn’t a bad replacement being one of the most successful coaches in the history of the game winning 15 major titles in his career.
Able to call upon greats of German football including goalscoring machine Jupp Heynckes and former Scotland national coach Berti Vogts – a tenacious full back in his playing days nicknamed Der Terrier – Lattek brought two further titles to North Rhine-Westphalia.
Lattek also built the club’s European legacy, winning the Uefa Cup in 78/79 and leading Gladbach to their furthest run in the European Cup, a 3-1 loss to Liverpool in the final of 76/77 competition.
Liverpool would be Gladbach’s conquerors again in Europe, knocking the Foals out the competition at the semi-final stage the following season.
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Context of today’s teams
43 years on Gladback once again come up against English opposition.
Worrying for the Foals is that it’s difficult to decide which side is better, the all conquering Liverpool of the 70s and 80s, or Pep’s free-flowing Manchester City of now.
City’s 1-0 win over Arsenal at the weekend made history – the Blues have gone 18 straight wins in all competitions and have a realistic chance of beating the world record of 24 wins set 10 years ago.
The news doesn’t get much better for Gladbach on the City front. The blue half of Manchester have seen their side break a club record away win streak recording their 11th away win in a row at the Emirates on Sunday, and City have the most clean sheets out of all teams in Europe’s top five leagues.
Taking into further account Gladbach’s recent form – a shock 2-1 defeat at home against relegation strugglers Mainz at the weekend – and uncertainty at the club – head coach Marco Rose announced a week ago he will leave at the end of the season to manage Dortmund, things are looking bleak for Gladbach’s return to European knockout competition.
Rays of hope for Gladbach
There are aspects of the tie Gladbach can cling to and stick round the training ground and changing rooms to remind players all is not lost.
The last time Gladbach met City in knockout competition they won – 4-2 on aggregate in the quarter-finals of the 78/79 UEFA Cup.
In Marcus Thuram, Lars Stindl and Jonas Hofmann, Gladbach have the weaponry to hurt City.
And the pressure’s all on City who are expected to lift a major European trophy whilst having arguably the best coach in the world employed at the club.
The furthest Guardiola has taken City in the competition is the quarter-final stage in four attempts which, considering the talent and resources at the Spaniard’s disposal, is something the City hierarchy, and the world, believe should be improved upon.
Borussia M’Gladbach v Man City, Champions League Rnd of 16, 1st leg, Wednesday 24th, KO 8pm.