Real Madrid’s Champions League campaign got off to the worst possible start last week – and if they’re not careful, it’ll be back-to-back defeats come Tuesday night.
Borussia Monchengladbach, one of the Bundesliga’s most exciting young sides, are their next opponents and they’ll fancy their chances after seeing what a depleted Shakhtar Donetsk did to Zinedine Zidane’s men at the Bernabeu.
The Ukrainians took advantage of Sergio Ramos’ absence to score three times in the Spanish capital before weathering a late storm and holding on for a shock 3-2 win.
Shakhtar Donetsk’s Manor Solomon scores his side’s third goal in their win over Real Madrid
And while Zidane will be boosted by the return of his captain – and the confidence which comes from a victory over bitter rivals Barcelona – Monchengladbach pose the sort of threat Real must be careful of.
Marco Rose’s side have developed a reputation as one of Germany’s most attractive teams in recent seasons, and showed they are no pushovers by almost coming away with three points from their opening game away at Inter Milan last week.
Here, Sportmail takes a closer look at why Monchengladbach could leave Real Madrid with an uphill battle to reach the Champions League knockout stages.
Marcelo and Marco Asensio (left to right) look dejected during Real’s defeat by Shakhtar
HOFMANN GETTING BETTER WITH AGE
When Jonas Hofmann turned 25, he had only ever managed eight starts during a season in the Bundesliga.
Fast forward three years and the versatile midfielder is now one of the key players in Rose’s Monchengladbach side and has an international cap to his name.
Hofmann made his first appearance for Germany at the age of 28 earlier this month and seems to be finally fulfilling the promise which saw him break through under Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund way back in 2012.
Capable of playing centrally, as a No 10 or out wide, the former Mainz loanee is in a rich vein of form and already has four goals and five assists to his name in all competitions this term.
One of those strikes came last week against Inter, when he was the coolest man inside the San Siro as he ran through on goal before slotting past Samir Handanovic.
Hofmann has been compared to Marco Reus in his home country and has the ability and directness to cause Zidane’s back four all kinds of problems on Tuesday night.
Jonas Hofmann celebrates after scoring against Inter Milan in Monchengladbach’s first game
CONFIDENT ROSE HAS HIS STARS FIT
Monchengladbach boss Rose didn’t watch Real’s Clasico win over Barcelona on Saturday because his side were playing at the same time, but that didn’t stop him downplaying their 3-1 win.
‘In any case we know that Barcelona is in a difficult phase and that it is no longer the Barcelona that we all knew and admire,’ he said during a press conference, perhaps in an attempt to kick-start some mind games with Zidane.
Whether it was a genuine observation or not, Rose has certainly been preparing for Tuesday’s game for a while.
He made five changes to the team which drew with Inter against bottom of the table Mainz last week, resting the likes of Hoffman and key midfielder Florian Neuhaus from the start before introducing them after the break to help seal a 3-2 win.
Forwards Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea, who starred during Monchengladbach’s stint at the top of the table last season, were also benched in a bid to keep them fresh for the visit of Karim Benzema and Co.
Rose is relishing the opportunity to face a ‘great rival’ in the shape of Real – and his players will be fit and firing because of his clever rotation policy.
Monchengladbach boss Marco Rose rotated his team last weekend to keep them fresh for Real
MONCHENGLADBACH’S HOME FORTRESS
Given how they struggled on home soil last week, Real Madrid may not be looking forward to the prospect of playing at one of Germany’s toughest grounds.
Monchengladbach had the second best record of any Bundesliga side at home last season, losing only three games and taking 38 points from a possible 51.
Champions Bayern Munich were the only side to pick up more points (41), while just five teams have beaten Monchengladback at Borussia-Park in all competitions since the start of last season.
They are unbeaten in their two games there this term and have suffered just one defeat home or away in eight matches, having been beaten by Borussia Dortmund in the opening game of the season.
The task would have been even greater for Real had Monchengladbach been allowed to welcome more than 10,000 supporters into the stadium as planned.
However, a rise in coronavirus cases in the city means that is now no longer possible, with just 300 lucky supporters permitted to attend one of the biggest games of the night.
Monchengladbach will be allowed 300 fans inside Borussia-Park when they face Real Madrid
PASS MASTER NEUHAUS
A clip of Hofmann’s goal in the 2-2 draw with Inter went viral last week, but not for the reason you might expect.
Although the midfielder’s perfectly-timed run and calm finish were both to be admired, it was the through ball from Florian Neuhaus which had fans drooling.
The 23-year-old has come into his own in a deep-lying central midfield role under Rose, with his vision and technique earning him a first cap for Germany earlier this month.
Both of those qualities were on show as he set up Hofmann with a sublime, drilled pass which cut straight through Inter’s defence to put his team-mate in on goal.
Neuhaus, who has been likened to Madrid’s Toni Kroos in style, already has two goals and two assists this season, and has completed 87 per cent of his passes.
He will come up against his compatriot on Tuesday night and should relish the chance to show that he is the future of Germany’s midfield.
THEY LOVE THE BIG GAMES
Some teams might freeze when going head-to-head with a team of Real Madrid’s quality, experience and history. Monchengladbach are unlikely to be one of them.
The Foals have a solid record when it comes to picking up results in the really big games, having won three of their last six meetings with German giants Bayern.
They also saw off Roma at home in last season’s Europa League and earned a creditable draw with Manchester City during the 2016-17 season.
Games against Real were common during Monchengladbach’s glory decade of the 1970s, and they also faced them during the 1980s too.
In four meetings, the Bundesliga outfit won once, drew twice and suffered just one defeat.
Borussia Monchengladbach’s players train on Monday ahead of the visit of the Spanish giants