Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 Hamburg

BAYER Leverkusen cruised to a victory over Hamburg this afternoon in the final round of 1. Bundesliga fixtures before the winter break. Goals from Stefan Kießling and André Schürrle gave the second-placed home side a deserved 2-0 half-time lead against their visitors, who struggled to get into the game. The away side’s players weren’t helped by the system being deployed by their coach, Thorsten Fink, with Leverkusen’s coaching duo Sascha Lewandowski and Sami Hyypiä playing an extra man in midfield, and getting their players to pressurise the right areas of the pitch.

Hamburg improved slightly at the start of the second half, but still failed to test the home side’s goalkeeper, Bernd Leno. They clearly missed the talismanic, creative presence of club poster-boy Rafael van der Vaart, but also looked tired both mentally and physically – last weekend’s trip to Brazil for a friendly game against Grêmio surely didn’t help Fink and the players’ preparation. With just under 25 minutes to play, Kieβling – the division’s top-scorer – wrapped up the points, and thereafter, the game petered to a close. Although Bayern Munich have run away with the title already, this afternoon’s three points secured Leverkusen’s grip on a Champions League qualification spot, and it’ll take some doing for two teams to knock them out of the top three after the break. Hamburg, meanwhile, end the first half of the season in the top half of the table, and although today’s loss will have left a sour taste in the mouths of everyone associated with the club, they still have a great chance of returning to the Europa League next season.

Match preview here.

The formations that started the match

Bayer Leverkusen (4-3-3, from right to left): Leno; Hajime Hosogai, Philipp Wollscheid, Ömer Toprak, Sebastian Boenisch; Lars Bender, Simon Rolfes, Jens Hegeler; Gonzalo Castro, Kießling, Schürrle

Hamburg (4-4-2 diamond, from right to left): René Adler; Dennis Diekmeier, Michael Mancienne, Heiko Westermann, Lam Zhi Gan; Milan Badelj; Per Ciljan Skjelbred, Dennis Aogo; Tolgay Arslan; Artjoms Rudņevs, Heung-Min Son Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen-Hamburg preview

IT’S second against seventh this weekend in 1. Bundesliga, as two teams who’ve enjoyed winter campaigns to be proud of square off in the last round of league matches before the winter break. Although Bayer Leverkusen’s hopes of winning the title probably disintegrated with last weekend’s 3-2 loss at Hannover, both they and Hamburg have a very good chance this season of making the 2012/13 Champions League given the erratic form of every team in Germany’s top-flight bar Bayern Munich.

All eyes will be on the away side’s goalkeeper René Adler this weekend, who has been one of the top-performing players in the first half of the 2012/13 1. Bundesliga season. He left Bayer Leverkusen over the summer to join Hamburg, and will be keen to show his former employers just what they’re missing at the BayArena. Adler will have a tough time keeping in-form Leverkusen striker Stefan Kieβling at bay, though – the 28-year-old has been in outstanding form this season, with ten goals and some fantastic line-leading performances to his name. Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Greuther Fürth

SIDNEY Sam came off the bench to score twice and lead Bayer Leverkusen to victory over 2011/12 2. Bundesliga champions Greuther Fürth at the BayArena. The newly-promoted side’s defensive set-up and tactics nullified the hosts in the first-half, and right-back Bernd Nehrig even had two great chances right on half-time to hand the visitors a shock lead. However, Leverkusen’s joint coaching duo Sascha Lewandowski and Sami Hyypiä made a wise choice in replacing Karim Bellarabi with Sam for the second-half, as the former Hamburg attacker’s coolness in front of goal ensured that the home side eventually cruised to victory.

Fürth’s fourth loss of the season wasn’t for want of trying, but coach Mike Büskens’ side lack experience and creativity in midfield, and quality in attack. This latest loss means the Franconian minnows will end matchday six second-bottom of 1. Bundesliga unless Wolfsburg beat Mainz by four or more goals tomorrow afternoon. Leverkusen, meanwhile, are now up to sixth spot in the table, although Dortmund will leapfrog them if they Borussia Mönchengladbach this evening.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Bayer Leverkusen (4-3-2-1, from right to left): Bernd Leno; Daniel Carvajal, Philipp Wollscheid, Ömer Toprak, Michal Kadlec; Lars Bender, Simon Rolfes, Gonzalo Castro; Bellarabi, André Schürrle; Stefan Kießling

Greuther Fürth (4-1-2-1-2, from right to left): Max Grün; Nehrig, Thomas Kleine, Mergim Mavraj, Heinrich Schmidtgal; Milorad Peković; Edgar Prib, Stephan Fürstner; Thanos Petsos; Sercan Sararer, Edú Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen-Greuther Fürth preview

1. BUNDESLIGA strugglers Greuther Fürth continue their top-flight adventure this weekend as they travel to North Rhine-Westphalian big-guns Bayer Leverkusen. Mike Büskens’ side lost their third home game of the season during the week at the hands of Fortuna Düsseldorf, but have been in good form on the road, if you exclude their cup exit at the hands of Kickers Offenbach on August 18. Although Leverkusen – under joint coaches Sami Hyypiä and Sascha Lewandowski – have looked decent enough at the BayArena in 1. Bundesliga so far, they haven’t exactly made a flawless start to the season overall; losing two away games, and being held at home in the Europa League by Ukrainian outfit Metalist Kharkiv. Continue reading

Werder Bremen 1-1 Bayer Leverkusen

Qualifying for next season’s Champions League remains a tall order for both Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen after they shared the spoils this afternoon following an evenly-contested match. Claudio Pizarro’s goal midway through the first-half didn’t quite come against the run of play, but Robin Dutt’s Leverkusen had been by far the better side in the game’s opening quarter. A half-time substitution and formational change revitalized Leverkusen, putting them back in the driving seat, and the visitors deservedly grabbed an early equalizer from a corner after a Tim Wiese mistake. Erin Derdiyok and Lars Bender looked particularly dangerous for the visitors thereafter, but neither side could grab a winner, despite having a plethora of chances in the closing stages. The result keeps the sides in fifth and sixth places respectively, and five points behind the side currently sitting ‘last’ in the top-four, Borussia Mönchengladbach (who are yet to play this weekend).

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Werder Bremen (4-4-2 diamond, from right to left): Wiese; Clemens Fritz, François Affolter, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Florian Hartherz; Phillipp Bargfrede; Aleksandr Ignjovski, Tom Trybull; Mehmet Ekici; Markus Rosenborg, Pizarro

Bayer Leverkusen (4-4-2 diamond, from right to left): Bernd Leno; Danny da Costa, Daniel Schwaab, Manuel Friedrich, Michal Kadlec; Stefan Reinartz; Gonzalo Castro, Simon Rolfes; Bender; Stefan Kießling, André Schürrle Continue reading

Werder Bremen-Bayer Leverkusen preview

Two of Germany’s most successful sides in the 21st Century face one another tomorrow afternoon in the Bundesliga. Between them, Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen have notched up 12 top-four finishes this millennium, although as it stands, neither side looks good enough to take that total up to 13 or 14 come May. Winning here, however, is probably the only way to change that.

Some of the main narratives from both sides’ season to date have involved former Chelsea players. While Claudio Pizarro can’t stop scoring for Bremen, Michael Ballack has been one of the more disappointing of a plethora of disappointing performers for beleaguered coach Robin Dutt at Bayer Leverkusen. However, the club’s fans – eagerly awaiting the upcoming Champions League tie against Barcelona – seemingly sided with the 35-year-old midfielder as he was taken off during last weekend’s 3-2 victory over Mainz. Boos reverberated around the BayArena, and such noises were not entirely unexpected – since joining from Freiburg in the summer, Dutt is yet to convince both fans of the club and the players in his squad that he is the right man for the job. Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 Werder Bremen

The general first half formations.

Robin Dutt finally won his first game as Bayer Leverkusen manager as the home side scored a late winner in what had been an even and entertaining game. These two attack-minded sides dominated one another in separate spells throughout the 90 minutes, with both goalkeepers on top form to keep the game scoreless. But a moment of brilliant athleticism by Simon Rolfes in the 86th minute saw the Bremen defence caught off-guard and a deserved point cruelly snatched from their grasp.

Match preview here.

Bremen, lining up with near enough the same 4-4-2 midfield diamond and players that contested the victory over Kaiserslautern last week, got us under way at the BayArena, where the hosts had made changes in goal, defence, midfield and up front. The opening stages were keenly and evenly contested, Stefan Kießling in particular embodying the home side’s fight; a quality lacking in recent weeks.

Chances at both ends were dictated by Bremen’s tactics in the opening ten minutes, as two examples from the eighth and ninth minutes respectively illustrated. During the former, Bremen started short, and Sebastian Prödl looked about as he brought the ball forward, eyeing up the six or so Bremen attackers bobbing centrally. Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen-Werder Bremen preview

The second round of the new Bundesliga season concludes this afternoon with a game between two of Germany’s bigger clubs. Yet, whereas Bayer Leverkusen would seemingly be the one currently on the up, Champions League campaign and all to look forward to, they’ve made a poor start to the season: losing 2-0 to Mainz last weekend on the opening day, and 4-3 to Dynamo Dresden in the cup a fortnight ago. Werder Bremen, on the other hand, avenged their 3-2 loss to Kaiserslautern on the final day of a forgettable 2010/11 campaign by beating them 2-0 last weekend, although the Saturday before that, they too exited the cup to lower-league opponents, going down 2-1 to Heidenheimer.

Marko Marin, the top assist-maker at the club last season (nine) despite never really convincing or being certain of a starting berth, missed a penalty in that match, although a new hero is now ostensibly stepping up to the plate in the form of Markus Rosenberg. The 28-year-old Swedish striker, on loan with Racing Santander last season where he scored nine times, bagged a brace against Kaiserslautern, and eight more goals in the green of Bremen before May and he’ll surpass Claudio Pizarro’s 2010/11 club-best tally of nine goals. Continue reading

Mainz 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen

The first half formations.

Sami Allagui bounced back from missing the crucial penalty in the midweek Europa League exit to Gaz Metan by scoring the opening goal as Mainz defeated Bayer Leverkusen in the first match of the new Bundesliga season. The home side, making their second official appearance in their new Coface Arena, played a superb pressing game off-ball, and a slick, passing, dribbling, gung-ho one on it. Leverkusen didn’t quite have a shocker, but, they did struggle to find a consistent rhythm and style, and also seemed unable to cope with the unrelenting pace of the game. After losing to Dynamo Dresden 4-3 in the cup last week, new coach Robin Dutt is already under pressure to prove that he is the man to take the perennial runners-up to the next level; and, to make matters worse, the defender he helped bring to the club, Ömer Toprak, steered into his own net in the dying stages to help seal Mainz’s deserved victory.

Match preview here. 

Mainz, as is their way, pressed high and hard from kick-off, but Bayer Leverkusen looked prepared and therefore remained assured on the ball, even if they did little with it in the opening few minutes. Continue reading

Mainz-Bayer Leverkusen preview

They might not yet have even played their first Bundesliga game of the 2011/12 season, but Mainz have already played in two cup competitions. Although coach Thomas Tuchel’s side squeezed past SV Niederauerbach in the DFB-Pokal last weekend, they suffered an early Europa League exit at the hands of Romanian side Gaz Metan on Thursday, however. But, Tuchel has called on his heartbroken players to put aside the disappointment of that elimination as they prepare to kick off their league campaign against Bayer Leverkusen, a side they spent a large chunk of last season battling for Champions League qualification with. The young miracle worker has told his players that defeats are just a part of football that they have to learn to accept, and that they couldn’t have wished to meet a better opponent at this moment in time than Bayer. Given that this will be the first ever Bundesliga game staged at Mainz’s new Coface Arena stadium, there’s no danger that the home fans will be suffering an emotional hangover, and Bayer Leverkusen and the Mainz representatives on the pitch themselves can expect a wall of noise. Continue reading

Dynamo Dresden 4-3 Bayer Leverkusen

The first half formations

Champions League-bound Bayer Leverkusen squandered a 3-0 lead with 22 minutes of the regulation 90 to play to lose an incredible DFB-Pokal tie 4-3 to their until then overwhelmed 2. Bundesliga hosts.

Match preview here

Dresden sat off their guests initially, inviting them into the attacking half. Although this worked in halting Leverkusen’s early stroll forwards, the hosts soon got sucked further up the pitch, leaving their deep defence exposed to an early André Schürrle dribble towards the D and a shot that wasn’t too far wide. Dresden looked ill at ease in their 4-2-3-1 system, and this was exploited in the third minute; Hanno Balitsch fed with time and space to reach the byline. His subsequent pull-back only just evaded Erin Derdiyok, with the yellow-shirted defenders around him running about like headless chickens. Continue reading

Dynamo Dresden-Bayer Leverkusen preview

The 2011/12 2. Bundesliga season is being interrupted after just two matches to accommodate the opening round of the DFB-Pokal – Germany’s equivalent to England’s League Cup in terms of structure, albeit the equivalent of England’s FA Cup in terms of stature. Spread over three days and numerous time slots, the 64-team tournament sees all the top division sides and those in the league below who haven’t just been promoted there given away games to start with – hence why last season’s 3. Liga bronze-medallists Dresden have been given home advantage against last season’s Bundesliga runners-up, Leverkusen. Continue reading

Cologne 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen

The first half formations.

Bayer Leverkusen conceded the title to Dortmund but secured their spot in next season’s Champions League group stage – despite losing the Rhine derby to Cologne, who now move four points clear of the drop zone.

With Wolfsburg beating Werder Bremen the evening before this Saturday afternoon game, Cologne were once again in the thick of the relegation battle. A disastrous loss of form and the sudden departure of coach Frank Schaefer in the week meant that Leverkusen were the clear favourites for this tie. Dortmund were playing simultaneously, with both they and Leverkusen knowing that a loss for Dortmund and a win for Leverkusen would see the gap at the top reduced to two points. But for Jupp Heynckes’s side, the real goal was simply to win irrespective of how Dortmund got on, as three points here would guarantee the club’s place in the Champions League group stages for next season (even if Heynckes is Bayern Munich-bound). Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Schalke

The first half formations.

Leverkusen strolled to a win against a disinterested and focus-lacking Schalke side to put pressure on Dortmund at the top of the table.

Both sides came into this fixture on the back of significant happenings in continental competitions. Schalke, having overcome Valencia in the last 16 of the Champions League, found out that they’d be facing Inter for a place in the semi-finals. Even more newsworthy for them was the fact that coach Felix Magath had been shown the door, and Ralf Rangnick was back at the club for a second spell. With a vastly contrasting personality to Magath, not to mention a different approach to the game, it’ll be interesting to see how Schalke take to their new manager. However, this game came too early to make such assessments, as Seppo Eichkorn took charge as caretaker for the first and final time. Leverkusen, meanwhile, were dumped out of the Europa League in the week by Villareal. With both Hannover and Bayern Munich winning yesterday, the pressure was on them to grab all three points here in order to keep their grip on a Champions League place. Intriguingly, a win would also take them closer to Dortmund – seven points closer, anyway. Continue reading

Mainz 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen

The first half formations.

Bayer Leverkusen gave themselves a four-point cushion in the Champions League spots after capitalising on a Mainz mistake to win a game that looked certain to end goalless.

Both sides were in decent runs of form coming into this game, and won emphatically in the last round of fixtures: Mainz 4-2 at Hamburg, Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 at home to lowly Wolfsburg. The table made happy reading for fans of either side, with the hosts sat in fifth spot, knowing a win would see them leapfrog Bayern into fourth, and the visitors sat two points clear in second, knowing a win would take them to within nine points of league leaders Dortmund. Thomas Tuchel, linked this week with a move to Leverkusen should Jupp Heynckes depart for Bayern Munich, made three changes to his side, bringing in goalkeeper Christian Wetklo, and new full-backs. He retained the diamond midfield and wide forwards system that worked superbly in the second half against Hamburg last weekend. As for Bayer, who lost 3-2 at home to Villareal in the Europa League midweek, there was finally room for Michael Ballack in the starting XI. Arturo Vidal also returned, and with Ballack and Lars Bender behind him, started in a more advanced midfield role behind Stefan Kieβling. Against Hannover (2-0) & Nuremberg (1-0) on matchdays 20 & 21, Ballack & Rolfes were used behind Vidal to superb effect, but this was the first time this particular trio had started a game together. The talismanic Rolfes (and his Mainz counterpart Lewis Holtby) was on the bench. Continue reading