In the 1970s, VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach were a juggernaut in German and European football.
The Stallions, so called because of their plethora of talented youngsters at the time, won five Bundesliga titles, reached the UEFA Cup final three times (winning one of them) and finished runners-up to Liverpool FC in the 1977 European Champion Clubs' Cup showpiece.
The success did not last. The Lower Rhine outfit became mired in mid-table, eventually slipping into the second tier in 1999. Promoted two years later, Mönchengladbach were in danger of dropping out of the elite again when coach Lucien Favre was appointed in February 2011.
Favre steered the team to safety, however, and moulded Gladbach into the surprise package of last season as they finished fourth. The reward was a place in the UEFA Champions League play-offs, where on Tuesday they host FC Dynamo Kyiv, the club they eliminated in the semi-finals of the European Cup 35 years ago.
"We want to reach the Champions League. We know that it will be difficult, but it is possible," said Favre, who described Dynamo as "a very dangerous team with lots of potential and creativity". "They have players who can decide a game on their own," he added.
Captain Filip Daems knows how important the occasions is to the club and the fans. "We have been waiting for this for a very long time," said the 33-year-old defender. "
When we trained in the stadium today we could see all the preparations and could feel that a lot is at stake tomorrow."
Although Mönchengladbach have a near clean bill of health, save for Janis Blaswich (nose) and Niklas Dams (hip), three men so instrumental to their success last season – Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Dante (FC Bayern München) and Roman Neustädter (FC Schalke 04) – have moved on.
"Sure, we have lost three players, but those that have joined us are very good as well," stressed Daems, part of the side which won 2-0 at TSV Alemannia Aachen on Saturday in the German Cup first round.
Dynamo coach Yuri Semin will preside over the Bilo-Syni's 300th European fixture, one which could pave the way for a return to the group stage for the first time since 2009/10. Semin rested Miguel Veloso, Yevhen Khacheridi and Miloš Ninković on Saturday and subsequently watched the end of his side's seven-game winning start to the campaign as they succumbed 1-0 at FC Vorskla Poltava.
"We have analysed our mistakes and will try to avoid those tomorrow," said Semin. "We are up against one of the best teams in the Bundesliga. We know we will play a side that fight not until minute 90, but the 95th. We have to be aware of that."
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