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FEATURE | A new European standard for Bayer Leverkusen next season?

Get German Football News looks at Bayer Leverkusen’s case to go one step beyond in the UEFA Champions League and looks specifically at how the attack could be the key to any pending success.

It has been 17 years since Bayer Leverkusen finished runners up to Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final. You know? The one with that Zinedine Zidane goal! Since then, Leverkusen have not managed to progress any further than the Round of 16 in the competition. Nevertheless, Leverkusen are a well-seasoned European football club who have travelled far and wide around the tournament, and have played a plethora of Europe’s best teams, which therefore begs the question, can Bayer Leverkusen go further than they have in recent years?

It seems unlikely that Leverkusen can go the whole way in the competition, mainly due to the level of competition from teams primarily in Spain and England. That said, Ajax were deemed giant-killers in the 2018/19 UCL, after slaying the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus – clubs with 15 Champions League trophies between them. Ajax have won the competition four times and Die Werkself have never won the trophy in the competition’s 62 year history, although, that must be taken with a pinch of salt, given that the quality of German football currently is statistically stronger than the Dutch Eredivisie, making it much harder for a fringe team like Leverkusen to qualify compared with Ajax in their respective leagues, hence gaining UCL qualification. Though I am digressing slightly, it goes without saying that Ajax were a joy to watch last season in the UCL and demonstrated the beauty of the competition and the opportunity it gives to Europe’s smaller teams. Bayer can only be inspired by Ajax’s success upon their return to the competition for the first time in four seasons.

Bayer 04’s charge to a UCL spot last season was very belated. The run included a stunning 6-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt. Part of the inspiration for such an impressive surge is down to the attacking prowess of Bayer Leverkusen. Notably, Kai Havertz has been a revelation for Leverkusen, 17 goals and 4 assists in the Bundesliga, along with an awe-inspiring 3 goals and 3 assists in just 6 games in the UEFA Europa League. Havertz, 20, has the explosive traits associated with a youngster, but balanced with the character of an experienced leader, he will be chomping at the bit to play football in Europe’s elite competition. The German will seemingly stay put in Leverkusen next season.

Kevin Volland often seems to go a little under the radar in terms of the credit he deserves. The forward did not score as many goals as Havertz, however, he did assist 8 more goals than his German teammate (12). He is a versatile striker who has demonstrated that he puts his team first. The former Hoffenheim man can be a weapon in the Champions League and can cause real damage to teams with his creativity and unpredictability.

On the wings, Leverkusen have two of the fastest players in the Bundesliga in Karim Bellarabi and Jamaica’s Leon Bailey. Both are bursting with energy and whom also have a few goals in them. Bailey and Bellarabi may not have enjoyed the best form last season, but their blistering pace is always a threat. Blink and you will miss them. Leverkusen can really overpower defences with the levels of speed they have in the final third.

Of course, Bayer will not have the services of Julian Brandt in the Champions League next season. The 23-year-old will be joining Borussia Dortmund on July 1st. Undoubtedly a big loss for Leverkusen, Brandt played a pivotal role in the success they achieved last season in the Bundesliga.

However, as a big name departs, a player of similar stature arrives. Kerem Demirbay will join Bayer Leverkusen this summer. A fee of around €29 million, not dissimilar to departing Brandt’s price tag. Demirbay, 25, will bring more of the same flair that Brandt did during his tenure at the club, albeit from a slightly deeper position. He is a player who will punish teams if they take their eye off him for one moment. He can play almost any pass, a traditional playmaker, as well as cropping up with the occasional goal too. The German international has prior experience in the Champions League too with TSG Hoffenheim. He ticks all the boxes for manager Peter Bosz’ ultra attacking style of play.

Bayer Leverkusen have an attack which scared some of the best defences in the Bundesliga last season and have the potential to cause similar nightmares to some of Europe’s best next season. Bosz will most likely look to strengthen an often leaky defence but will not turn his attention away from the attack given that it is Leverkusen’s strongest asset. Leverkusen will kick off their first Champions League game in mid-September, where their offensive weaponry will be put to the test.

By Cameron O’Mara.

 

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