Marco Reus and Mike Hanke celebrate against BayernThe number of teams to have beaten Bayern Munich home and away in the Bundesliga during the last 10 seasons can be counted on the fingers of one hand. After Werder Bremen in 2002-03, Schalke in 2004-05, Hamburg in 2005-06 and Borussia Dortmund last season, Borussia Mönchengladbach joined the club on Friday evening courtesy of a 3-1 counter-attacking masterclass at Borussia-Park.
The Foals had begun their campaign with a shock 1-0 win at Bayern's Allianz Arena in August, but the context then was very different. Gladbach started the season as relegation candidates, having narrowly escaped the drop last term, and the win was only their second away success over Bayern in the league in the club's history. Five months later, they are just a point off top spot and chasing a place in the Champions League.
"Borussia will certainly play international football next season, either in the Champions League or in the Europa League," predicts Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, the talismanic forward of Gladbach's great side of the 1970s. Under Lucien Favre's understated stewardship, and in a little under a year, Gladbach have started to reacquaint themselves with the club's glorious past.
Favre has worked wonders at GladbachWhen 54-year-old Favre took over from Michael Frontzeck on Valentine's Day last year, Gladbach were bottom of the table and seemingly destined for a third relegation in 13 years. Instead, he galvanised the team, asserting his authority by replacing first-choice goalkeeper Logan Bailly with 18-year-old Marc-André ter Stegen and overseeing a haul of 20 points from a possible 36 that hauled Gladbach out of the bottom two and into a relegation play-off with Bochum that they won 2-1 on aggregate.
The momentum spilled over into this season and the victory at Bayern was the first of 11 wins that have taken Favre's side into contention for the title. With only 12 goals conceded in 18 games, Gladbach have the strongest defence in the Bundesliga. Allied to a spring-mounted counter-attack, it has proved a devastatingly effective formula.
"Their win over Bayern summed up their qualities - solid at the back, they get numbers behind the ball, and then break at frightening pace when they have it," says Ian Holyman, who commentates on the Bundesliga for Eurosport. "Basically, six outfield players sit when they're in possession, and [Marco] Reus, [Mike] Hanke, [Juan] Arango and [Patrick] Herrmann charge forward, with Hanke usually the outlet for the initial upfield ball."
Gladbach's 1970s heyday saw them win five German league titles and compete in five European finals, winning the UEFA Cup in 1975 and 1979. It would require a sudden and dramatic levelling out of the German football landscape for Favre to lead the club back to those heady heights, but they are nonetheless firmly on course to finish in the top 10 for the first time since 1996.
Whatever happens this season, it will be Reus's last at the club after he spurned Bayern's advances and signed for reigning champions Dortmund. "The €17.5 million question is what they will do after they get that sum of money when Marco Reus joins Dortmund next summer," says Holyman. "Vice-president Hans Meyer promised in his programme notes ahead of the Bayern game that it would be invested 100 per cent in the team. They will need to use it wisely, and it is going to be extremely difficult to replace Reus."
Having already lost the future services of their star player and current top scorer, Gladbach could face a battle to hang on to their coach as well. Favre's contract expires in 2013 and sporting director Max Eberl told Sport1 at the weekend that "a contract extension will be discussed soon".
A former Swiss international playmaker, the tactically creative Favre has enjoyed success at every club he has coached, excelling at Servette and ending FC Zurich's 25-year wait for a league title in his homeland before guiding Hertha Berlin to an unexpected fourth-place Bundesliga finish in 2009. Returning Germany's fallen giants to the European elite would only enhance his reputation, but Gladbach's success-starved supporters will pray that it is not a parting gift.
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