BERLIN (AP) — Three defeats in a row, four losses from five games since the Bundesliga resumed, and a long injury list have battered Borussia Moenchengladbach's confidence and put the side's goal of European qualification in danger.
"It's been the same old story for weeks," coach Dieter Hecking complained after the latest loss, 1-0 at relegation-threatened Stuttgart, his side's third consecutive game without scoring.
"We're going through a very difficult phase right now. It's a situation that leaves a bad taste in all of our mouths," Hecking said of the most challenging time since he took over before Christmas 2016.
"We don't have the peace of mind that can normally characterize our game. We made a lot of technical mistakes. We're doing ourselves a lot of damage with that."
Hecking has had to contend with a string of injuries, up to nine at a time, affecting the likes of goalkeeper Yann Sommer, defender Oscar Wendt, and Brazilian midfielder Raffael, all important players in the race for Champions League places. Fabian Johnson, Ibrahima Traore, and Tobias Strobl are among those currently out.
Hecking's job is not yet in danger. The former Wolfsburg, Nuremberg, and Hannover coach has support from defender Tony Jantschke, who says discussion about the coach is "crazy."
"Anyone who follows our work here in 'Gladbach would not pose such a question," says Jantschke, who acknowledges qualification for Europe is in danger. "Four defeats in five games is a catastrophe. We imagined it very differently."
Despite the alarming dip in form, 'Gladbach is only three points behind Schalke in the last place for Europa League qualification, and five behind Eintracht Frankfurt in the Champions League playoff qualification place.
With the exception of runaway leader Bayern Munich - 18 points clear with 12 rounds remaining - none of the German teams have been able to break free. But they've been faring better than 'Gladbach.
"We need to clarify how we can get better. It's not just a mental thing," defender Matthias Ginter says.
'Gladbach next faces Ginter's former team, Borussia Dortmund, at home on Sunday. Dortmund registered a 6-1 win in the sides' previous meeting before suffering its own crisis and dropping down the table.
But Dortmund has recovered from its slump under new coach Peter Stoeger, unbeaten in seven league games, while Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi has ensured fans have already forgotten about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after claiming three goals in two games since his deadline-day switch from Chelsea.
A defeat for Dortmund could plunge the side back into uncertainty, while 'Gladbach could use the boost as a springboard for the following games against Hannover, Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen.
"I believe in our team. And I still believe in Europe," 'Gladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria tells Kicker magazine.
"A win against Dortmund," Zakaria adds, "could be the starting point and give us a lot of tailwind for the tasks ahead. That has to be our goal. We don't want to lose touch with the international places."