Juventus
    20.10.2015 21:45 - in: Champions League S

    Three key men for Borussia Monchengladbach

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    Fresh from four Bundesliga victories on the bounce, Juventus.com focuses on three men central to the Foals’ recent resurgence

    Borussia Monchengladbach enter Wednesday’s match in fine form, winning their last four fixtures in the Bundesliga.

    Juventus.com takes a close look at the players that have excelled in the side’s recent resurgence under Andre Schubert’s stewardship.

    Raffael, 30, Forward

    The scorer of a brace in Borussia Monchengladbach’s last outing, a 5-1 win at Frankfurt, Raffael enters Wednesday’s Champions League meeting with Juventus in terrific form.

    Since Andre Schubert’s arrival as interim coach last month, the Brazilian has netted three times and turned provider on five occasions in what have been key contributing factors to his side’s rapid rise up the Bundesliga table.

    Raffael’s versatility counts among his main strengths, as he has excelled in different positions across the frontline, whether deployed as the centre-forward, secondary striker or even on the wings.

    The 30-year-old is currently in his third season with the Foals, for whom he has recorded a total 32 goals and 20 assists, playing his part in the team’s impressive third-place finish in 2014/15 and subsequent qualification for the Champions League.

    Raffael had arrived from Dynamo Kiev and incidentally played against Gladbach in the Ukrainian outfit’s play-off win to reach the group stages of Europe’s premier club competition in 2012.

    A product of Clube Atletico Juventus’ youth academy in Brazil, Raffael moved to Switzerland as a teenager and averaged a goal per game with both Chiasso and later FC Zurich before moving to Germany’s Bundesliga in 2008, spending four years at Hertha Berlin as well as a brief loan spell at Schalke.

    Fabian Johnson, 27, Winger

    Fabian Johnson’s return from injury has coincided with Gladbach’s surge back up the table. Having been sidelined for four fixtures during the Foals’ run of five defeats on the trot, he scored after just five minutes of his first game back – the 4-2 win over Augsburg that has sparked a remarkable change in the side’s fortunes over the last month.

    Born and raised in Munich to half-American parents, Johnson learnt his trade initially as a full-back at 1860 Munich’s well-renowned youth academy while rising through the German national side’s youth ranks. But in 2011 he opted to represent the United States, for whom he has gone on to win 34 caps, playing a big part in their reaching the knockout stages in the 2014 World Cup.

    Back in Germany, meanwhile, the 27-year-old has established himself as a dependable servant of every club he has joined since making his professional debut in 2004 for 1860 Munich’s second string. After joining their first-team and excelling in the side for three years, Johnson got his big break in 2009 with a move to Wolfsburg and a chance to prove himself in the country’s top-flight.

    A successful three-year spell with fellow Bundesliga club Hoffenheim followed and his performances for the south-west German club, for whom he registered 16 assists and six goals from a full-back position, attracted the attentions of former manager Lucien Favre at Borussia Monchengladbach, who decided to optimise Johnson’s attacking qualities in a more advanced role on the left wing. The shift in position paid off as he helped the side finish an impressive third in the division to qualify for this year’s Champions League.

    Granit Xhaka, 23, Midfielder

    Borussia Monchengladbach’s 23-year-old captain boasts a maturity beyond his age and has been constantly fulfilling the early potential that he showed at hometown club Basel.

    Xhaka initially stood out as a regular scorer from midfield for the Swiss side’s second string, which would see him propelled into the first team after just one season. There he would immediately get a taste of Champions League football, while getting his hands on two league titles and a domestic cup.

    Impressive displays saw him signed in 2012 by Gladbach, where he quickly became a key man in the club’s resurgence of recent years and he has maintained an eye for goal with two in his last four matches, despite playing in a deep-lying role.

    Xhaka in action for Switzerland at last year's World Cup

    His strong physical attributes and tenacity have made him a force to be reckoned with in the middle of the park, where he is accustomed to winning his aerial duels and adept at intercepting opposition balls before they can get as far as the Borussia backline.

    Added to this, Xhaka is a fine distributor of the ball, making him an extremely effective operator in the Foals’ counter-attacking system that has yielded excellent recent results in the Bundesliga under Andre Schubert.

    A crucial cog for his club, the midfielder has also established himself as a regular for the Swiss national side, winning 38 caps and scoring six goals, including one against France in last year’s World Cup finals in Brazil.

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