Preview: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Borussia Dortmund
Bayer Leverkusen will be aiming to win a sixth successive league match when they host Borussia Dortmund on Sunday.
The visitors, meanwhile, have won both of their games since returning to action after the World Cup.
Having taken over Leverkusen when they were in a perilous position inside the relegation zone in early October, Xabi Alonso has performed miracles in recent matches to guide them away from safety and closer to the European places.
The former Real Madrid midfielder, who is embarking on his first senior managerial role after spending three years with Real Sociedad’s B team, won just one of his first seven matches in all competitions, but his side have since won five consecutive league games to move up to eighth in the table.
Die Werkself raced into a 3-0 lead away to Borussia Monchengladbach in their first match back last weekend before surviving a scare when Lars Stindl bagged himself a late brace, while they comfortably held off VfL Bochum to win 2-0 at BayArena on Wednesday evening.
With a two-legged tie against Monaco awaiting them in the last-32 of the Europa League in a few weeks’ time, Alonso will be keen to see his players continue their winning momentum as they aim to challenge on two fronts between now and May.
Sunday’s clash against Dortmund provides a perfect opportunity for Leverkusen to send out a statement that they have fully recovered from their early season blip, while potentially reeling in a potential top four rival.
However, Dortmund appear to have benefitted from the break having lost their final two matches prior to the World Cup beginning in November, with Edin Terzic’s side narrowly defeating Augsburg and Mainz 05 within the past week.
BVB were involved in a seven-goal thriller against Augsburg at Signal Iduna Park last weekend, with Enrico Maassen’s side pegging their opponents back on three occasions before Giovanni Reyna created headlines on the pitch by snatching all three points with his 78th-minute strike.
The 20-year-old has received plenty of public criticism in recent months after it was revealed that he was almost sent home from Qatar by his international manager Gregg Berhalter due to attitude issues, but Reyna appears to have a point to prove after bagging another late winner away to Mainz on Wednesday evening.
Those additional two points ensured that Dortmund remain sandwiched between Eintracht Frankfurt and Freiburg – who are all level on points – in fifth place ahead of the weekend’s action, but Terzic will be aware that his players surely must perform better if they are to claim a positive result in Leverkusen on Sunday.
With Freiburg arriving in Dortmund next weekend before Terzic’s side travel to Bochum for the last-16 of the DFB-Pokal, it is a pivotal point in the campaign for himself and his players, who will also be relishing facing Chelsea in a Champions League knockout tie next month.
Bayer Leverkusen Bundesliga form:
Bayer Leverkusen form (all competitions):
Borussia Dortmund Bundesliga form:
Borussia Dortmund form (all competitions):
We say: Bayer Leverkusen 2-2 Borussia Dortmund
This match is undoubtedly the headline fixture of the weekend as far as the Bundesliga is concerned, and it should be a highly entertaining encounter with both teams preferring to play on the front foot.
Leverkusen will be determined to maintain their winning run as they look to close the gap on the Champions League qualification places, but we can envisage a share of the spoils on Sunday.