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Genk’s Champions League Opponents – Bayer Leverkusen 04

September 28, 2011 by Chris Mayer in Champions League, Europe with 0 Comments

After stemming the Valencian attack in Group E’s Matchday 1, Genk are feeling much more confident in achieving results on the big stage. The games get tougher though and Bayer Leverkusen will provide a stern test at the BayArena, with both teams looking to nab that coveted second spot. Twitter Leverkusen expert Vampy Archer tells us more about the almost German giant.

A German club named Bayer 04 Leverkusen, based in famous North Rhine-Westphalia — famous in footballing terms as Borussia Mönchengladbach, FC Köln, Borussia Dortmund, and Schalke all hail from there and all having their ‘glory days’ here and there, present and past — was formed in July 1904. Hence the number 04 in their title. It’s a “German thing”.

Never making it to the top division football, Bayer 04 enjoyed their anonymity in lower echelons until 1979-80. Since then, Bayer Leverkusen have never been relegated. They established themselves slowly, first enjoying mid-table mediocrity then suddenly striding in to Europe by the end of the decade participating in 1988 UEFA Cup (that time the final was decided over two-legs) where they faced Spanish side Espanyol in the final

In the first leg, Bayer 04 got thumped 3-0 but in the return leg they made a comeback and stretched the final to a penalty showdown. They walked home with the UEFA CUP trophy; winning the penalties by 3-2.

When ‘the Wall’ was brought down in 1990, Bayer Leverkusen made the moves to bring in some players from East Germany. The club icon Ulf Kirsten, Thom, and later Carsten Ramelow with Michael Ballack were brought in and they slowly morphed into the club which could finally start playing for the titles. Just never winning it though.

Recent History in Europe:

At the turn of the millennium, Bayer Leverkusen — spilling out with ridiculous talent in the players like: Başürk, Neuville, Kirsten, Berbatov, Živković Placente, Lúcio, Hans-Jörg Butt, Schneider, and Ballack would play football which was described as “something not from this planet”. They rightfully featured in Champions League final of 2001-02 where they were beaten down by that Zidane volley. They threw away the treble that year and embraced the title of “Vizekuzen” (Vice President or more fittingly “Runner-Up”) which was polluted by the rival fans in to a world-famous pun of “Neverkusen”. You get the picture, right?

After those dazzling heights of fame and glitz, this is how they participated in Champions League. Or not.

2002-03: Out in second Group Stages

2003-04: Couldn’t qualify

2004-05: Beaten by Liverpool in first knock-out stages on 6-2 aggregate (3-1 and 3-1)

2005-06 — 2009-10: Couldn’t qualify

So this marks a return of Bayer Leverkusen to Champions League football after 5-6 long years.

Season so far:

After finishing the 2010-11 season as Bundesliga runner-up (directly qualifying to Champions League group-stages), the club underwent few changes. Bayer 04 trainer (manager) Jupp Heynckes left for Bayern Munich (it was decided way before the season ended) and SC Freiburg’s Robin Dutt took the reins at BayArena in place of Heynckes. Not only that, the summer also revolved around the future of the most influential and pivotal player on the pitch, Arturo Vidal.

Vidal was in his last year of contract and there were only two ways this saga could have ended: either play out his last year of contract and go on free next summer or get shipped out this year and it was latter, unfortunately. Vidal went to Juventus and scored on his debut last weekend. A big loss but it was forseeable.

The two teams already met in a relatively low-key pre-season friendly, with Leverkusen winning 4-1, although they did lose to Club Brugge 2-1, in a mini Belgian tour. After that, 1st round of DFB Pokal against Dynamo Dresden which ended in heart-break as Dynamo Dresden probably made one of the greatest comebacks (coming back from 3-0 down to clinch the match with 4-3) to oust Bayer Leverkusen.

This wasn’t the first of calamities; Bayer Leverkusen lost the first choice goalie Rene Adler as he underwent knee-surgery and is still out (probably returning in October) and also they had to do without the 2nd choice Fabian Giefer who suffered concussion in first Bundesliga match (2-0 defeat against Mainz). Bayer Leverkusen had to come up with a quick solution and there came a loan-move for Stuttgart’s young goalkeeper , Bernd Leno, who would claim three straight clean-sheets (including against Borussia Dortmund) putting in some impressive performances on the way.

Bundesliga Results:

Mainz 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 Werder Bremen

VFB Stuttgart 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen 0-0 Borussia Dortmund

FC Augsburg 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen 1-4 FC Cologne

Bayern Munich 3-0 Bayer Leverkusen

Tactics:

Bayer Leverkusen play around 4-2-3-1 formation with two ‘double 6’ (Simon Rolfes and Lars Bender) and two ‘inverted wingers’ in Sidney Sam and Andre Schürrle. When Michael Ballack is in the team, he either plays in one of ‘double 6’ or he plays just behind the striker, in-between Schürrle and Sam.

Bayer Leverkusen shuffle between the two strikers they have at their disposal: Swiss International Eren Derdiyok and the German Stefan Kießling. Regrdless of the striker-selection, the tactics remain the same but both strikers have their own traits when it comes to off-the-ball movement or when it’s the question of coming deep to get involved.

Bayer Leverkusen field the double six duo of Lars Bender and Simon Rolfes at the centre of the midfield with the centre-back pairing of Stefan Reinartz and Omer Toprak on their back. Most of the attacks come from the wings but when the opposition is sturdy then they try to break them with attacks down the middle.

Manager:

Robin Dutt took over Bavaria-bound Jupp Heynckes, this summer. He has coached Freiburg for four years, before coming to Leverkusen, where he guided the side to the Bundesliga promotion in his second year and kept Freiburg away from relegation for the next two years. An ambitious young manager came walking into the BayArena and within the first two months of Bundesliga season, he might have realized the difference between manging the team like Freiburg and the team like Bayer Leverkusen where the expectations are higher, fans more impatient, and if anything goes wrong then the corridors are noisier.

Saying something about Dutt this early (he’s only been in charge of 9 competitive games) seems a bit difficult. However, his tactical approach to the games is primarily defensive and disciplined. Dutt has failed to win the hearts with matches when there was a chance (Cologne, Bayern, and Chelsea) but once he gets it right with first team members and squad at full health, he surely will deliver the goods.

Strengths & Weaknesses:

When you see the names on a team’s list which reads as: Schürrle, Sidney Sam, Renato Augusto, and Kießling then  you get it right that the team must be relying on attacks and that’s where the strength of the team lies. Intriguingly enough, the attacking pack of the team hasn’t provided the number of goals which fans expected. German sensation, Schürrle has yet to score a Bundesliga goal for Bayer Leverkusen this season and neither has Renato Augusto.

Despite this, if one needs to find the strength of this team then it’s attack.

When it comes to the weakness of this team, then it’s exactly where two centre-halves stand for 90 minutes: heart of the defense. Add to that: there’s no “real” right-back in the team as most of the times it’s Castro or even Balitsch playing out that position. On left back: Kadlec is good when he’s good and when he’s not good, he’s injured. No real depth or options at the back will always come to haunt the team this season whether it’s in its domestic run or continental recognition.

Key Player:

Too many to choose from; Michael Ballack, past his prime but still shows some glimpses through his passes. Andre Schürrle, a modern attacking player who can make things click instantly and can score some scorchers, unfortunately hasn’t done it for Leverkusen yet but can’t be disregarded. However, the star player for me, is Renato Augusto. If I could define him in some way, I would say “Raw Genius”.

Prediction:

Looking past the defeat against Chelsea and keeping the strength of Valencia in mind, Bayer Leverkusen should finish the group 3rd and go in to Europa League with aspirations of making the latter knock-out stages of the competition. If Genk manages to spring some surprises here and there then even 3rd sounds “dreamy”.

 

Vampy Archer is a huge Leverkusen fan and shows his love for the club on the beloved Bayer blog – Werkself Stryder where you will also find my preview for Genk

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