Bayer Leverkusen went top on Sunday, comfortably beating TSG Hoffenheim 4-1, to leapfrog Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig and occupy first place for the first time in six seasons. This is rarified stuff from a team which has yet to win a major domestic title and is still haunted by the misfortune of the 2001-2 season, when they gave up a five point lead in the last week of the league season then promptly lost both the Champions League and DFP Pokal finals.
This year it is looking very different though, as, following Wolfsburg’s loss to Bayern last night, they are now the only undefeated team left in the league. They are in excellent form too, sweeping away opponents quite majestically. Since the start of November they have won ten of the eleven games played either at home or in the Europa League and have scored a whopping 38 goals in the process. This from a team that was supposed to struggle this year following the departure of key player Kai Havertz to Chelsea in the summer.
Coach Peter Bosz has the team playing terrific attacking football, but they can also defend. Only RB Leipzig have conceded fewer goals, something which augurs well if they hope to remain at the top. Any concerns that they may get nervous or play in a more inhibited fashion now they are the team every opponent is aiming to beat, were swept away last night as they thumped local rivals 1 FC Cologne 4-0. As on Sunday when they took a 4th minute lead through Leon Bailey’s tremendous shot, they came out of the traps fast and were 2-0 up within eight minutes. Two more goals just before the hour, the final one scored by their new bright young hope 17 year old Florian Wirtz, and it was game over.
Now the attention turns to this weekend when Bayern Munich visit the BayArena. The last time these two played was in the DFB Pokal final in July, when Bayern won 2-0 but were never really threatened. At that time they were on a long winning run and frankly looked unbeatable. This year there is a fragility about the reigning champions however and it will be interesting to see if Leverkusen are able to exploit this. If they can beat their rivals and extend their lead at the top heading into the winter break, then it really could be time for the team known as the “Werkself” to start dreaming that their long wait for a title might be over.