Category Archives: Match Previews

Bayer vs. Bayern – A look at the past

by SchnixB04 (follow on Twitter)

On Saturday, Bayer Leverkusen will travel to the Allianz Arena in Munich to take on the current Bundesliga leader, Bayern Munich. The trip comes at a crucial time for Leverkusen, who are fresh off of a devastating home loss to arch-rivals Cologne. A loss (and there is no question that Bayern is the favorite) and Leverkusen will presumably find themselves treading water in the middle of the table and even further from their goal of qualifying for a Champion’s League spot next year. A draw would be ideal, as the Leverkusen defense hasn’t done anything in recent weeks to suggest that a victory is possible. Whatever does happen, one shouldn’t be surprised if the end result of the match is as one sided as so many of these previous matches have been.

In 1981, both teams met midway through the season as Bayern was in the running for another title. Leverkusen was very much middle of the table at this early point in its Bundesliga history, but behind three goals from Norwegian star Arne Larsen Oekland they sent the Bavarians packing with their tails between their legs. Oekland was actually credited with a fourth goal in the second half of the game by the referee and linesman. However, replays showed that the ball never actually crossed the line but rather smashed into the side netting. As Bayern players heatedly protested the unfairly given goal, Oekland quietly walked over to the referee and explained that the ball had never actually gone into the goal. The referee quickly thanked Oekland for his honesty, reversed his decision, and gave Bayern the goal kick. Leverkusen went on to win 3-0, but it can be argued that Oekland became more famous through that fourth, disallowed goal than through the actual hattrick. Today, he is the CEO of a Norwegian pizza chain!

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Another three-goal performance against Bayern came in 1997 when striker Markus Feldhoff scored a hattrick as Leverkusen waltzed past the Bavarians, 5-2. Feldhoff, who could never quite break into a starting forward lineup that at times included Ulf Kirsten, Rudi Voeller, and Paulo Sergio, chose the this moment to have his best game for the Rheinlanders; one of those games that turns an otherwise forgettable player into a hero. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he currently plies his trade as co-trainer of 2. Bundesliga club, Energie Cottbus.

A more recent victory against Bayern came during Leverkusen’s run to the German Cup final in 2009, which it ultimately lost to Werder Bremen. Prior to that disappointing 1-0 loss in the final, however, Leverkusen encountered the Bavarians in the quarterfinals. The eventual second-place finishers put the wood to Bayern that day, waiting until the second half to unleash holy hell. Goals by Tranquilo Barnetta, Arturo Vidal (remember him?!), Patrick Helmes, and Stefan Kiessling helped Leverkusen take a commanding lead and then hold off a Bayern comeback.

Sadly, these types of results have often been few and far between. For example, Bayern is responsible for Leverkusen’s worst loss at the BayArena, a 1-5 defeat in 1984. And Leverkusen fans will remember last year’s defeat of the same score when Bayer visited the Allianz Arena in the second half of the season. The Bayern team that will step onto the pitch on Saturday has been called by one executive “the best Bayern team since the 70s,” and that comparison may not be hyperbole. Leverkusen is going to have its hands full, but hopefully it can conjure up some memories of classic victories past. And a hattrick from Kiessling wouldn’t hurt, either!

Return to the Champions League

by SchnixB04 (follow on Twitter)

Tuesday, 13.09.2011 @ 20:45 (GMT+2)

On Tuesday, Bayer 04 Leverkusen return to the Champion’s League for the first time since 2005. Last year’s second-place finish ensured that the Werkself qualified for the CL’s group stages, and the recent draw has landed B04 in a competitive group that includes Belgian champion K.R.C. Genk, Spanish third-place finisher Valencia C.F., and perennial English powerhouse, Chelsea F.C. For their first test, Leverkusen faces the group favorite at Stamford Bridge, as Chelsea looks to continue its consistent and impressive results in the Champion’s League. In anticipation of this match, let’s take a quick look at the team Leverkusen might encounter.

Although it appears as if all English clubs are basically chasing the two Manchester teams, Chelsea probably has the best chance of anyone to catch one of them if they slip up. After starting the season with three victories and one draw Chelsea finds itself in third place, two points behind City and United. Victories at home against West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City, coupled with an away tie and win against Stoke City and Sunderland, respectively, have Chelsea well positioned for another deep run in the Premiership title race but don’t doubt that the Champion’s League trophy is the piece of silverware most coveted by the likes of Frank Lampard, John Terry, Didier Drogba, et. al.

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Although this match will be one of Leverkusen’s greatest challenges all season, Chelsea will go into the match with some questions about their lineup, especially in the attack. Last year’s mega-signing from Liverpool, Fernando Torres, is on an extremely short leash from new coach Andre Villas-Boas, having recently attributed his scoring struggles to the “advanced age” of some of his teammates. I am sure that midfield stalwarts such as Lampard and Florent Malouda were not exactly happy to hear Torres’ description of the team after supporting the striker during what has become a season-long goal drought going back to last year. Torres has yet to rediscover his form from his early days at Liverpool, and further complicating matters for Chelsea is the head injury and subsequent concussion suffered by star striker Didier Drogba a few weeks ago. Drogba has been ruled out of the CL match, which will allow Leverkusen’s back line to breathe somewhat more easily. Villas-Boas, who hasn’t been shy about threatening to drop Torres to a permanent bench spot, will likely look to recent suspension returnee Daniel Sturridge, who scored a lovely backheel goal over the weekend, and/or Chelsea stalwart and French malcontent, Nicolas Anelka.

Over the last decade, Chelsea’s midfield has paved the way for the club’s success. This year, too, fans will look to the midfield to provide the type of success they have become used to in recent years. Led, for what seems like forever, by (ex?) national team midfielder, Frank Lampard, Chelsea’s midfield finds itself not quite as settled as in years past. There is much talent on this part of the team, but as Torres himself stated, it’s not quite at the level that has been in the past. Florent Malouda hasn’t yet discovered his best form, and as in the last game at Sunderland, he might find himself on the bench once again in favor of Juan Mata. Malouda’s international club experience may prove to be too valuable to leave out of the lineup, however. Juan Mata’s arrival at Chelsea is a promising sign for an “aging” midfield, and it would be no surprise to see the young Spaniard start the CL match against Leverkusen as Chelsea looks to put its stamp on the game from the beginning. His creativity and offensive prowess will be invaluable against a susceptible Leverkusen back line. It’s likely that the rest of the midfield will be rounded out by Raul Meireles and Mikel, two midfielders who can defend and attack with pace. Ramires, who is suspended for this match and who will be missed, will have to watch from the stands.

Chelsea’s defense is probably the most settled part of their lineup and can boast some truly world-class players. Led by captain John Terry, whose best days are behind him but who still commands the respect of his teammates, the back line has the potential to make the lives of Leverkusen midfielders a living hell. Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa will be able to attack with pace along the left and right touch lines, and Leverkusen’s wing midfielders will be asked to track back often to nullify this threat. In the middle Terry will likely partner with Branislav Ivanovic, who has been a solid substitute for the injured (and awesome) David Luiz. Luiz may be nearing a return to fitness, and his inclusion in this match may be a possibility. Whosoever ends up playing in that position, Leverkusen’s attackers will need to be at their best to crack this experienced and dangerous back line.

Whether Chelsea ends up playing a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3, Villas-Boas will look to pressure Leverkusen early and often to take control of the game. The Chelsea trainer will have certainly taken note of Leverkusen’s victory at Augsburg, in which the 4-1 scoreline favored Bayer04 more than it deserved. Augsburg’s attackers were constantly able to harass Leverkusen’s defensive wingers, running down the wings and cutting inside with regularity. Villas-Boas has a bevy of talented midfielders and defenders who will be chomping at the bit to attack Leverkusen’s most vulnerable positions.

Now for some totally biased and subjective analysis: Leverkusen can achieve a draw, and also the all-important away goal, at Stamford Bridge. This optimism stems in part from the injuries or suspensions suffered by key Chelsea players, including GK Peter Cech, who returned early on the weekend from a knee injury, Drogba, and Ramires. Leverkusen has their own injury/suspension concerns, but the team has been making do with a patchwork back line/midfield for some time now and the adjustment should not prove too difficult. Michael Ballack, no matter his role on Tuesday, brings CL experience to a team without much and he will be motivated to leave his impression on the game. He will be further motivated by the fact that Chelsea FC, in a show of great class, will honor Ballack before the match for his time with the English club. The key to the game, in my opinion, will be how the wingers for Leverkusen play both on offense and defense. Chelsea has the ability to take the game to its opponent, and Leverkusen will have to absorb this pressure and choose its moments of attack on the counter well. Either way, the matchup promises to be an entertaining one, and a great re-introcuction to the highest level of competition in European club football for Leverkusen.

Line-up prediction

Chelsea:
P.Cech-Bosingwa,Ivanovic,Terry,A. Cole-Mikel-Mata,Lampard,Raul Meireles-Fernando Torres,Anelka

Injuries/Suspension:
Didier Drogba is out with concussion while Michael Essien (knee) is a long term absentee.  Ramires will miss the game due to a suspension.

Leverkusen:
Leno-Castro,Reinartz,Toprak,Kadlec-Bender,Rolfes-Sam,Ballack,Schürrle-Kießling

Injuries:
Rene Adler, Bastian Oczipka, Tranquillo Barnetta and Michael Ortega

Viel Glueck, Jungs!

Match Preview: Bundesliga, Fixture 5, FC Augsburg vs Bayer Leverkusen

by Patrick1904

Friday, 9/9/2011 @20:30 (GMT+2)

With most fans already looking ahead to Tuesday’s clash against Chelsea, the Werkself is expected to sum 3 points against a team that 99,99% of football experts see without a chance to maintain the division.

Press Conference (Thursday)

Opening statement Robin Dutt: What game do I expect on Friday?  It will be different to the last three.  After the initial defeats against Dresden and Mainz, I had to focus our training session mainly on defensive behaviour given that we were playing 3 quality teams next: Bremen, Stuttgart and Dortmund.  We know of our offensive strength and that we always good for a goal.  So it worked out well at the end.  Against Augsburg, Bayer 04 takes the role of favourite and should have the ball at most times as they are expected to take a defensive approach.  A quick transition from defense into attack will be necessary to find the spaces in their defense.  This is going to require concentration and discipline from my team.

Question: Augsburg has hardly any strikers available: Nando and Oehrl are injured, Thurk suspended by the club.  Only Mölders seems to be the option for the coach, do you expect a very destructive side?

Dutt: Yes Nando picked up an injury in a test game after scoring 2 goals, that’s a tough loss for them.  Though Mölders has been dangerous as only forward in their line-up, especially in counter-attacks.  I don’t expect a completely defensive opponent, but they will surely be cautious going forward.  Augsburg had a bad start, we can therefore also expect some changes and surprises.

Question: Is this Friday game a problem for you or could you work well with the team this week as not many players were absent?

Dutt: Especially Simon Rolfes, André Schürrle and Eren Derdiyok have played a lot of minutes with their national sides.  The players that stayed here, did a great job in the training sessions.  At the moment we have the correct mixture: Fun and at the same time concentration whenever we hit the training pitch.

Question: Leverkusen is going to be very busy with a lot of matches in the next weeks.  Are you looking forward to the participation in the Champions League?

Dutt: We are trying to put that aside until the referee blows the final whistle tomorrow.  Of course given the short time between Augsburg and Chelsea, I have used this break to watch also a few matches of our Champions League rival.  Me and the team are looking forward to measure ourselves against the best sides in Europe.  But at the end, I don’t see much difference in playing against Bayern Munich or now against Chelsea, they are both top teams internationally speaking.  We will go out with the objective to win as in every other game.

Question: Do you a see risk that some of the players are already thinking ahead and underestimating Augsburg?

Dutt: We had little line-up changes in the last weeks.  If it becomes apparent, I am sure to have players who are very keen on playing against Augsburg.  Maintaining the concentration in both competitions is especially important in the upcoming weeks.

Intervention of Gonzalo Castro

“It was a productive week and a half, our training session were filled with intensity.  I think we are well prepared and should travel with the sufficient confidence to Augsburg to grab the 3 points.”

Question: How much confidence has the team gained out of the game against Dortmund, where Bayer 04 clearly dominated the first half?

Castro: A lot!  I think in the first 60 minutes till the red card we contained them very well, Dortmund did not create much danger.  We should have scored two goals but unfortunately they didn’t go down.  After the red card, everything changed. Under the line, it was a great performance which showed that we are able to compete successfully against the best.

Question: It looks like that the right-back position in the German team is still not very defined.  Do you still have the dream of returning to the Nationalmannschaft?

Castro: Of course I maintain this dream, but I think we should be realistic. Bayer 04 comes first, we have now a lot of important matches in the Bundesliga and Champions League. My whole concentration is channeled at that, anything else arrives with strong performances at the club.

Line-up

With Kadlec suspended for three games and Oczipka doing his first rounds on the training pitch this week following his injury, Castro will take the role of left-back.

Ballack is expected to receive the honor to start against Chelsea, to oil the engine playing in Augsburg would help.

Line-up Augsburg (from Kicker):
Jentzsch-Callsen Bracker,Sankoh,de Roeck,Davids-Hosogai,Sinkala-Bah,Baier,Bellinghausen-Mölders

Comments are welcomed 😉

Match Preview: DFB Pokal, 1st Round, Dynamo Dresden vs Bayer Leverkusen

Saturday, 30/07/2011 @15:30 (GMT+2)

Test games are finally history, the new season is just a few hours away!

Find below an extract of Robin Dutt’s press conference on Thursday:

Question: Have you decided which goalkeeper is going to replace René Adler on Saturday?

Robin Dutt: David Yelldell will be in goal.  It was a very close call influenced by a lot of factors.  One of them, was the choice between short-term (Yelldell) and long-term prospects (Giefer).  At the end we thought it was better to go with the short-term perspective, also hoping that René Adler will return soon to the line-up.  Both goalkeepers showed a similar level in the pre-season, that’s why we had to take into account the experience factor.  David played the entire last season with Duisburg and was also majorily responsible for the run into the Cup final. He did not receive any goal in the test games, although it must be said that Giefer’s received goals cannot be put on the negative side. As said a close call!

Question: Could you please comment on the opponent…

Robin Dutt: On paper there are surely easier match-ups in this first round.  We have seen in their home game against Rostock, that the crowd is very emotional.  Against a Champions League team we can expect the fans to be even more motivated.  Dresden has experienced player such as captain Christian Fiél, Filip Trojan and also speed on the wings with Heller.  Leverkusen will emerge victorious if we manage to put our qualities on the pitch in both defense and offense.  In this competition it’s possible to advance very far, the difference with the Bundesliga is that mistakes are not allowed, everything is decided in one game.  Once you lose, you out.  And like every year a team from the 1.Bundesliga will be eliminated by a lower division side.  We have to make sure that’s it not us.

Question: Mr.Dutt, how close did the team get to your football philosophy during this pre-season?

Robin Dutt: We made some progress over the last week, looking at the game against Genk.  However you cannot expect that everything has been absorbed at this point.  The team’s mentality is already very close to what I expect, in the tactical area there is still work to do.  But my side is at the stage where it should be after a season preparation.

Question: How do you see Ballack’s role regarding Saturday and for the coming weeks?

Robin Dutt: It’s important to bring every player close to their potential.  Michael is in a very good physical condition.  But in central midfield we have 6 great players: Simon Rolfes, Michael Ballack, Gonzalo Castro, Lars Bender, Renato Augusto and I also include Tranquillo Barnetta here.  As coach you cannot do much wrong, they all quality players.  But I will have to communicate a lot, as 3 players are going to be disappointed every matchday to not have made the starting line-up.  This does not exclude anyone.

Question: Closed training sessions are new to us, where will it take place and how secret is it going to be?

Robin Dutt: Either on the training pitch or in the BayArena.  I am surprised about the repercussions of this measure, especially at a time in which tactical innovations are praised so much in the press.  If I let the public watch our specific preparation for the upcoming opponent, I could also simply send my tactics to Thomas Tuchel for the Bundesliga opener and he would give us theirs.  The scouts would have no need to travel.  If we obtain information and try to implement something for an upcoming match, then our game plan needs to be protected.

Question: Can you talk a bit about André Schürrle…

Robin Dutt: He is now in a better shape after an exhaustion dip following the first weeks.  Against Genk he showed his immense qualities, we are currently very happy with him.

Line-up

I predict this line-up, you can count in 1-2 deviations.

Line-up Dresden (from Kicker):
Eilhoff-Jungwirth,Bregerie,Stoll,Schuppan-Koch,Fiel,Solga,Heller-Trojan-Fort

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Epic Fail in front of goal by Marcel Heller (previous matchday)

Dresden Fans (previous matchday)

Bayer Legend Ulf Kirsten will have a divided heart in this match.  He made his first steps at Dresden and then joined Leverkusen after the Berlin wall came down.  His son Benjamin Kirsten (goalkeeper) currently plays for Dynamo but is injured and therefore out for this game.

As usual we will have the Mundilev Chat during the match. Join, it’s free!