Bayer Leverkusen continue their unbeaten run to 14 games in all competitions but were left frustrated in a 0-0 draw away at Union Berlin. In what was a crucial game surrounding the European places in the Bundesliga, very few chances were seen as Union Berlin displayed discipline and organisation to stifle any threat Leverkusen offered.
A late save from Frederik Rønnow denied Mitchel Bakker what would have been a certain game-winning goal, but despite Die Werkself’s best efforts, they left it too late to come away with three points. Union Berlin stay third, but the gap for the Champions League places tightens with both Freiburg and RB Leipzig winning. Bayer Leverkusen may feel a top-four finish is unattainable, but they will keep fighting to catch Leipzig in fifth.
An important summer awaits Bayer Leverkusen
When Xabi Alonso took charge of Bayer Leverkusen in early October, Die Werkself looked to be embroiled in an unexpected relegation battle. However, the Spanish head coach has transformed their early season woes and now they find themselves just six points away from a spot in the Europa League. However, with Leverkusen finding themselves in the semi-finals of Europe’s secondary competition, they are potentially just three wins games away from qualifying for the Champions League. While European football is all but guaranteed in some capacity, as for what competition they will be in is in the air. A draw to fellow Champions League hopefuls in Union Berlin may have slammed the door shut on any top-four hopes Xabi Alonso may have had, however, the dream is not over.
Nevertheless, Leverkusen will want to ensure that Europe’s greatest competition will be returning to the BayArena for next season if they want to keep hold of their prized assets. Jeremie Frimpong has managed 18 goal contributions in all competitions this year, which is the greatest return from any full-back in Europe’s top five leagues. While Moussa Diaby is leading the line for Die Werkself with 22 goal contributions over the course of the campaign. Both players have been crucial to Xabi Alonso’s success at the club, but have been heavily linked with moves away in the summer. While Florian Wirtz will all but certainly remain at the club for next year, as for the players that will be around him is anything but. Exequiel Palacios and Robert Andrich have complimented each other remarkably well, combining to create a formidable partnership in midfield.
While the core of a side that could challenge for the Meisterschale is in the palms of Alonso’s hands, a few pieces to a perfect puzzle still need to be put in place. Whether Leverkusen can replace their outgoings in a suitable manner could be the difference between fighting for Europe or fighting to be crowned champions of Germany.
Union Berlin can touch the Champions League
Union Berlin may have only gained a point against Bayer Leverkusen on a weekend where the two sides challenging them for the Champions League places claimed all three. However, this point was crucial for Die Eisernen and highlights how well-organised and disciplined Urs Fischer’s side truly is. Die Werkself were unbeaten in their previous 13 matches in which they had managed to come out victorious in 10 of them. Only the sturdy defence of Wolfsburg had managed to deny Leverkusen in front of goal in their recent run of phenomenal form. However, Alonso’s side failed to threaten Frederik Rønnow in between the Union goal, in what was a vintage Union performance.
With only one win in their previous four matches, this was a performance that will offer a much-needed boost in the confidence of Union as they look to end their fairytale season on the highest of notes. Die Eisernen were able to control the game out of possession against a side that are usually unplayable in possession. With just 36% percent of the ball, Union were even able to achieve a higher expected goals (0.80) than their visitors (0.73). Union may now be joint level on points with Freiburg, and only two points clear of RB Leipzig, nevertheless, this performance will offer them all the belief they will need to ensure that Champions League football will be played at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei.
Florian Wirtz is the best young player in the Bundesliga
When Florian Wirtz suffered an ACL tear in March 2022 against FC Köln, the world watched on fearing the worst. Would he be able to return as the same player? Would he ever be able to reach the heights that were expected of him? Would he be another name on a never-ending list of young German players whose talent was ultimately wasted? Since he returned – after nine months out – Wirtz has proved why the world should have never been concerned. If anything the two-time Fritz Walter Gold medal award winner has come back better than when he left.
In his previous 18 appearances, Die Werkself’s Wunderkind has managed to collect four goals and eight assists in what has been a remarkable return. This has seen Wirtz claim a goal contribution every 105 minutes which is significantly the best return in the Leverkusen squad. While the threat of Moussa Diaby and Jeremie Frimpong was nullified by a well-organised Union side, Florian Wirtz was at the centre of everything positive about Xabi Alonso’s side. With three successful dribbles; two passes into the final third, as well as drawing in three fouls, Wirtz proved to be a handful for the Union back line. Leverkusen may have been left frustrated, but Wirtz only continues to demonstrate why he is one of the best, if not the best, young players in the Bundesliga.
GGFN | Will Shopland