Why Leverkusen Could Pip BVB to Title

Posted on April 14, 2011


With the Bundesliga approaching its conclusion, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen will go head-to-head in the final five games to see who wins the championship.

Leverkusen are five points behind the impressive Borussia Dortmund who have been stuttering towards the trophy ever since Shinji Kagawa was ruled out just after the new year.

However, as some would way, champions tend to “grind” out results towards the end of the season and despite seeing their lead cut from 15 points down to just five, Dortmund remain confident of winning their first Bundesliga title since 2002.

One of the fresh faces at Signal Iduna Park has been 22-year-old Kevin Großkreutz who has excelled in Jurgen Klopp’s young side and he has made almost 40 appearances this season in the first-team.

After the romping win over Hannover 96, Großkreutz said: “Now we have earned the right to bring the (Bundesliga) shield home, anyone who doesn’t believe that is crazy.”

Those from the outside may disagree and the lack of experience in the Dortmund squad is beginning to show as the gap between them and Leverkusen slowly becomes tighter.

One thing that is evident is the difference in resources for Jurgen Klopp and Jupp Heynckes.

Whether it can be argued that Bayer Leverkusen have more talent in their ranks than Dortmund is up for debate but the lack of depth in Jurgen Klopp’s squad could be a deciding factor when things heat up in the coming weeks.

Since the end of January, BvB have rarely performed at the benchmark which was set during the first six-months of the season as they strolled to victory week-after-week. A huge factor in that was the long-term injury to Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa who was taking the league by storm following his £300,000 move from Cerezo Osaka.

Without Kagawa, Dortmund have stuttered along the way and have had to convert Polish striker Robert Lewandowski in to a creative attacking-midfielder.

Leverkusen have had to deal with their own major setback during the season with Michael Ballack missing a huge chunk of the season with a shin injury sustained in October.

However, the difference in options for Heynckes and Klopp has had a glowing impact on Leverkusen’s title ambitions with Bayer having talent such as Simon Rolfes, Arturo Vidal, Renato Augusto and Lars Bender capable of filling Ballack’s midfield position.

The weekend’s action is another sign of the resources Heynckes has at his disposal compared to Jurgen Klopp.

With BvB a goal down at Hamburg, Dortmund had a substitutes bench containing Dede, Kuba, Da Silva, Owomoyela, Zidan and Santana which was stretched even compared to Hamburg who had Trochowski, Jansen and Guerrero available to come on.

Credit must go to Jurgen Klopp for the drastic changes made during the second-half which effectively had Dortmund playing with five upfront in the last ten minutes with no recognised striker apart from Zidan. Klopp introduced Kuba, Owomoyela and Zidan in to the game and his changes paid dividends with Owomoyela assisting Kuba at the back-post who slotted in the equaliser.

Jupp Heynckes had a tactical masterstroke of his own on Sunday when Leverkusen were a goal down at home to St Pauli at the break. Heynckes had started the game with 4-4-1-1 and Kießling as the lone striker but opted to make two changes before the comeback with Gonzalo Castro and Eren Derdiyok coming on for Bayer.

Swiss striker Derdiyok joined Kießling in attack and Leverkusen fought back to win 2-1 with two goals in nine minutes at the BayArena.

The big test comes for Leverkusen and Heynckes on Sunday when they clash with FC Bayern in the Allianz Arena. The game has added significance with Heynckes moving to Bavaria in the summer but also interesting with FC Bayern playing their first match since Louis Van Gaal was sacked.

Van Gaal’s sacking could have a positive or negative impact for Bayern, and with Arjen Robben suspended, there is not a better time really to face the Bundesliga champions in their own backyard.

Sunday could be the real indication as to whether Leverkusen have got it in them to claw back five points and overcome the horror of the final day disaster in 2002 when they were pipped by FC Bayern to the title.

Posted in: Feature