July 21, 2017

Bundesliga Match Preview: Bayern Munich v Bayer Leverkusen

There’s a real heavyweight clash on Saturday as two of the Bundesliga’s Champions League participants go head-to-head at the Allianz Arena. Pep Guardiola’s FC Bayern Munich take on Roger Schmidt’s Bayer 04 Leverkusen in what should prove to be real clash of intellect and style.

With both teams having taking full points so far this season something will have to give.
Two games and we’ve seen two differing sides of Bayern Munich. Scintillating and full of goals against Hamburg, but then stuttering and lucky to come away with three points against Hoffenheim. Which face of Bayern will we see this weekend?

One thing guaranteed to be seen is high level of ball possession from Guardiola’s XI, which contrasts starkly with the high-intensity pressing game of Bayer Leverkusen. It will be fascinating to see how the two styles pan out and whether Bayern still enjoy their usual dominance. Last season’s game saw Bayern with 65% possession, but it’s more a case of what they do with it on Saturday that will count.

There have been plenty of plusses for Bayern thus far with new signings Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal settling in very quickly, with Costa in particular already showing that he can make a big (or bigger) name for himself with the Rekordmeister.

King Arturo will face his former club, but the Werkself are a much different beast from the side he left back in 2011. The only players still there from his time being Lars Bender and Stefan Kießling.

Today’s Bayer Leverkusen have matched Bayern’s 100% start to the season and have also impressed by clinching a place in the group stage of the Champions League. Being paired with Lazio was a tough draw, but their fantastic display in the second-leg saw them through.

Attention now though will have to quickly focus back on the league as they look to maintain their good start. They fought back from an early set-back at home to Hoffenheim to win 2-1 and followed that up last weekend with a narrow 1-0 win at Hannover.

One thing that might work against Roger Schmidt is the depth of squad available to him. With Son Heung-Min poised for an imminent move to the Premier League with Tottenham, the players sent out to face Bayern will be the same that came through two legs against Lazio. The physical side should be fine, but will the young Werkself XI be able to raise their game so soon after the ecstasy of Wednesday’s Champions League heroics?

Bayern have issues at the heart of their defence and the pace of Karim Bellarabi, the attacking guile of Hakan Çalhanoğlu and the canny finishing of Stefan Kießling will look to cause the Bavarians problems.

Team news:

With Jerome Boateng suspended and Mehdi Benatia injured, Pep Guardiola will have to shuffle his defensive cards. It’s unclear what he will do, but one option would be to drop Xabi Alonso to the rear creating a back-three. Dante is another possible option.

It could well be that Roger Schmidt keeps faith with the same team that impressed on Wednesday against Lazio in the Champions League qualifier as it is his strongest available XI. Son looks set to miss out once more, but whether it is because of a potential move to England remains to be seen.

Head-to-head:

Bundesliga played: 72
Bayern won: 42 Leverkusen won: 16 Draws: 14
Last season: Bayern 1 (Ribéry 51) Leverkusen 0 (06/12/2014)
*Franck Ribéry’s goal that sealed the win was his 100th career goal for Bayern.

Key men:

Thomas Müller

Now that Bastian Schweinsteiger has left, Müller is the heart and soul of Bayern and he has started the season in excellent form. He looks like it’s not just a fourth successive Bundesliga title he’s after, but the Torschützenkanone for the leading scorer. The forward has hit three goals in his first two Bundesliga games.

Hakan Çalhanoğlu

Leverkusen’s 21-year-old could well have been lining up for the Bavarians in this fixture had things worked out differently. Bayern were interested in signing him from HSV, but he preferred a move to the Bay-Arena. Much is made of his free-kick ability and it is a big part of his arsenal, but there is so much more to Çalhanoğlu. His great display against Lazio is still fresh in the mind and he’ll be keen to show Bayern what they missed out on.

What they’re saying:

Pep Guardiola: “Bayer are big rivals for the Bundesliga title. Leverkusen are unique opponents. They don’t give you any time to consider. We’re going to have to let the ball do more running than our legs. They are a special team – very intense. Çalhanoğlu takes some very dangerous free-kicks so we’ve got to prevent those situations.

“Without Benatia and Boateng, of course it’s no easier. When you have fewer players, you have fewer options, but if you want to win the Bundesliga then you need to get three points against Leverkusen.”

Roger Schmidt: “There’s no bigger challenge in the Bundesliga than playing against Bayern. It is clearly a tough task for us at the end of an exhausting week. We’ll measure ourselves against the best of the best on Saturday.

“Above all, it’s up to us to keep it tight at the back and make sure the ball is a long way from our goal. Bayern have incredibly high quality in terms of individual players and they are capable of exploiting these strengths in possession of the ball combined with their smart tactics.

“We’re still tired today and are likely to be the same early tomorrow. But our batteries will have to be recharged by 18.30. We’re working hard, have had lots of match practice and we’re used to taking it to the limit every three days from last season. It will be tight but if we take our chances and make the right decisions going forward then we will be able to compete on equal terms.”

Prediction:

Bayern Munich 2 Bayer Leverkusen 0

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.