Squads involved in the Bundesliga’s tight battle for Champions League places meet when Borussia Monchengladbach host Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday (9.30am ET).
The top five in the Bundesliga are separated by just eight points, while things are even tighter between second and fifth, with just four points spanning that group. Only two points stand between Monchengladbach in third and Leverkusen in fifth.
Even if they don’t win the title, Bayern Munich will almost certainly finish in the top four, leaving Monchengladbach, Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig to scrap it out over the three remaining top-four spots over the final eight rounds of matches.
That contest will be played out over a condensed schedule. Last weekend, the Bundesliga became the first of the major European leagues to get up and running in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything seemed to run smoothly and while the lack of supporters undoubtedly harmed the spectacle, the quality of the soccer wasn’t that far off the norm.
Monchengladbach resumed their campaign with a convincing win away to Eintracht Frankfurt. They were two up by the seventh minute of an eventual 3-1 victory in which Alassane Plea, Marcus Thuram (son of French World-Cup winner Lillian Thuram) and Ramy Bensebaini got the goals.
Marco Rose’s side have played the same sort of attractive and well-structured soccer that his RB Salzburg did previously. Plea and Thuram have been the two standout attacking performers, both accumulating at least 15 goals and assists to date. Breel Embolo, Patrick Herrmann and even Lars Stindl have all also contributed strongly in fewer minutes.
In the early running, Monchengladbach even looked like potential title challengers. They won 10 of their first 14 matches of the campaign, but have stuttered a little since, winning just six of their last 12. A top-four place does remain an attainable goal, despite the strong pressure that Saturday’s opponents are exerting on all of the current occupants of those positions.
Leverkusen were one of the league’s form teams before the enforced shutdown, having taken 22 points from their previous 10 matches to pull away from those behind and close to within two points of the top four. They continued that strong run of results with a 4-1 win away to Werder Bremen in their first match back in action on Monday.
Peter Bosz’s side went in 2-1 up at the interval thanks to two goals from Kai Havertz, before Mitchell Weiser and Kerem Demirbay added further gloss to the scoreline in the second half. It was the third time in their last six league matches, and the fourth time in their last nine, that they had scored four times. Bayer Leverkusen seem to be hitting peak form at just the right time.
There is also a degree to which their heavily possession-based approach could prove ideal for the conditions in which the remainder of the season will be contested. Their two most frequent passing combinations against Bremen were from one central defender to the other. In theory, by keeping and patiently circulating the ball they should be better able to conserve energy than some of their rivals. It remains to be seen whether that will be decisive.
Monchengladbach were 2-1 winners when the two sides met in Leverkusen in November. Ozcar Wendt gave them an early lead, and although Kevin Volland swiftly equalized, Thuram, having already assisted the opener, went on to score the winning goal in the closing exchanges of the first half. Leverkusen really piled on the shots in the final half-hour, but just couldn’t find a tying goal.
These feel like two well-matched teams who are likely to produce an entertaining game with plenty of goals: over 3.5 might be a decent wager with the United States online oddsmakers. Calling a winner is difficult, but Leverkusen are the form team and the odds available on them are a smidgen more attractive. Backing them to take all three points looks a solid play.
So, in terms of a betting pick, this is the Borussia Monchengladbach vs Bayer Leverkusen prediction for this Bundesliga soccer match preview: