|Champions League Group C: Celtic v Borussia Monchengladbach|
|Date: Wednesday 19 October Venue: Celtic Park, Glasgow Kick-off: 19:45 BST|
|Coverage: BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Sport website|
Borussia Monchengladbach are not like most major European clubs.
While most modern football institutions have doormen, security guards and fences to curtail curious fans, the doors at Gladbach’s stadium are always open and fans can often be found in the bar/restaurant adjacent to the club’s front desk.
If the fans can’t catch their favourite player walking off the training pitches a stone throw’s away from the stadium then they’d be just as lucky to find him enjoying some lunch in the bar.
There, fans and players mingle freely. Despite being one of Germany’s most popular clubs, Gladbach, like most German teams, go to great lengths to ensure their fans don’t feel isolated from the team.
Indeed, another feature of the open-door policy is the club’s trophy collection on show for all to see in the lobby. Placed in glass podiums stand a Bundesliga, German Cup and Uefa Cup trophy to represent the nine domestic and continental trophies Gladbach wrestled from the grasp of the famous, all-conquering Bayern Munich sides of the seventies.
Proud of their history
Nicknamed “The Foals” due to the young, vibrant nature of their teams throughout the era, this Bundesliga side are steeped in history and have a loyal, worldwide following that love them for it.
“The size of the club was also why I came here,” Fabian Johnson, Gladbach’s United States international tells the BBC. “My last two clubs – Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim – were kind of new in the world of the Bundesliga and the supporters were great but didn’t have the tradition and background.”
When asked about the constant reminder of former glory days, Johnson adds: “It’s just a great honour for every player that plays here. I think every player is proud to play for a big club like this.”
Like Celtic, Gladbach’s history and vibrant supporters demand success even if the club’s stature in European football isn’t what it once was. As such, the opportunity to play in the Champions League against the very best is a timely reminder of what once was.
Not unlike their coming Glasgow rivals, Celtic, Gladbach not only adore the limelight but feel they are absolutely deserving of it.
“We’re playing in the Champions League and we wanted to play the best teams in the world and now we have it,” says Johnson with a notable smile. “Of course, it’s exciting, but it’s also a hard challenge.”
Yet to make a point
Following an unfortunate 0-0 draw with Hamburg on Saturday, Gladbach sit eighth in a notably turbulent Bundesliga table. On the same weekend, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich dropped points, while suggested relegation contenders Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt sit just above them in sixth and seventh respectively.
Yet an even tougher prospect has been Group C of the Champions League, in which Gladbach have travelled to Manchester City and welcomed Barcelona to Borussia Park without picking up a point, shipping six goals in the process.
“I think we have the toughest group in the Champions League and then had the two toughest games right away,” admits Johnson as he ponders over his team’s current standing. “It’s very important that we pick up points in Glasgow.
“It’s going to be tough to get out of this group in first or second place, so I hope that we’re going to finish third. But it’s going to be hard to play in Glasgow, win in Glasgow and then win at home in Gladbach against Celtic.”
Although Johnson plays for the United States through his parents, he was born and raised in Munich and it’s that famous German pragmatism that shines through as he looks ahead to the double header against the Scottish champions.
“We try to win every game, obviously, but we have to try to be realistic and that means winning in Glasgow,” he adds. “If we get our first three points, or perhaps one, then we have to see how it looks, but of course we want to at least get to the Europa League.”
Standing in the way of such a goal is one notable factor: Gladbach’s away form. Although Celtic fans may bemoan their own away record at times, the Foals under Andre Schubert blow very hot or cold depending on where they happen to be playing.
While the team may have lost only one of their 18 home games in the Bundesliga under the relatively new coach, they’ve also only won four of their 17 matches on the road in that period.
When asked if he could explain such a contrasting run of form, Johnson is refreshingly blunt and honest: “To be honest, no.” He adds: “When we play at home, the supporters are always behind us.
“We have an unbelievable crowd. Everybody knows that, if they come to Borussia Park, it’s going to be a hard, tough game. It’s not like we’re trying to play different when we play away. I can’t explain it, to be honest.”
‘Crazy’ Celtic crowd
Indeed, he doesn’t seem to be the only one. Schubert still plays the same tactics and often the same players at home and away each week even if his system only seems to work when the players have the full support of more than 50,000 supporters behind them.
Yet that doesn’t seem to bother Johnson. Rather than fear a trip to Celtic Park, where so many big clubs have stumbled in the past, he claims his team-mates can’t wait.
“We know that the crowd there is crazy,” he says with an eager smile. “We talked about it and, of course, everybody knows from different players who’ve played there before that it’s going to be a great atmosphere and a great crowd.
“If you want to play in the Champions League, you have to face the biggest teams and that’s what we’ve got. They’re going to be nice games but tough ones.”
Johnson, like his club, are intent on making the most of their time in the Champions League: a competition that they truly believe they belong in, like their opponents on Wednesday night, when two clubs not dissimilar in their history and standing in European football meet.
Source: BBC Football Read Original Article: Celtic v Borussia Monchengladbach: Friendly Foals ready to rock in Glasgow