The start of the most exciting second half of the Bundesliga has been tough for years.

When Borussia Mönchengladbach, second in the table, takes on the fifth hit at FC Schalke 04 on Friday (8.30 p.m. / DAZN and ZDF), there is a lot going on – on both sides. «Schalke is already a house number. The last few years have always been crackling, »said Gladbach captain Lars Stindl of the German Press Agency before the first top game after the end of the winter break.

The team of coach Marco Rose – despite being just two points behind Herbstmeister RB Leipzig the big outsider in the title race – wants to prove that he can be counted on in the new year. “We will do everything we can to win there,” said Stindl, who would jump back to first place with Borussia if he won at least for one night. “We will of course try to stay on top,” announced Rose.

The top teams are close to each other, and FC Bayern will probably have a difficult time continuing their season ticket this year. The record champions lurk four points behind Leipzig and two behind Gladbach in third place. Even the fourth Borussia Dortmund still has chances to win the title despite being seven points behind Leipzig. “I can imagine that it will be a close championship until the end,” predicted Rose.

However, if Schalke’s strengthened under coach David Wagner succeeds, the Royal Blues would be back in the race – at least for the Champions League places. «David Wagner does a really good job there. You can see a clear plan, an idea », Rose praised the Schalke players, he expects a game« with a lot of speed »on Friday.

It could also have been highly explosive – after all, it is the first Schalke home game since the announcement of the move from regular goalkeeper and ex-captain Alexander Nübel to Bayern at the end of the season. After his kung fu action against Frankfurt’s Mijat Gacinovic, Nübel must continue to watch blocked, against his designated successor Markus Schubert against Gladbach. Nevertheless, possible fan protests are expected. “It’s clear that they may be a little pissed off,” said Schalke striker Benito Raman. “I can understand Alex as well as the fans.”

Such unrest at Borussia is currently unthinkable. As the only candidate for the title, the Gladbachers are already exempt from the multiple burden of the cup competitions, at most the increasing competition up to May could become an issue. For example, it is unclear whether the ex-Schalke Breel Embolo, who has blossomed on the Lower Rhine, will be allowed to play from the start on Friday.

The Borussia have good memories of the game at Schalke a year ago, which they won 2: 0 after a great performance. The goal to 2: 0 was like a work of art that had been completed by Florian Neuhaus after two minutes and 45 seconds and 62 stations in possession of the ball. This was followed by the crash under Rose’s predecessor Dieter Hecking from the Champions League ranks. This time, this should definitely be prevented. «We are now very, very greedy for success. I see no reason to think that we could slip in the table, »said midfielder Jonas Hofmann.

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