Cologne (dpa) – The athletic challenge was followed by the verbal: Bayer Leverkusen hesitated for years when there were big opportunities.
This time, the Werkself go lively and brutally in the Bundesliga hit against FC Bayern Munich on Saturday. As leader of the table against the second. It’s sort of a final for the unofficial Christmas championship.
“It will be a great game. Everyone is watching. And of course Bayern can be beaten”, said national player Nadiem Amiri after the 4-0 (2-0) victory over 1. FC Köln, the highest derby away win ever. And former Bayern pro Mitchell Weiser said: “We are currently on a run that we want to continue. If we are already at the top and have a game like this, we also want three points.”
Coach Peter Bosz followed the unusually brave statements of his players with a benevolent smile. “I’m certainly not going to try to slow them down,” said the Dutchman. “It’s always good when players feel good, have confidence and are in a good mood.” And then the 57-year-old added with a laugh: “But I will also tell you that Bayern Munich is a good team.”
Bayer had to go through this painfully last year. In the spring, the team seemed ripe for their first title in 27 years. But two 2-4 defeats against Bayern in the league and in the cup final symbolized what was still missing. Especially since Munich was superior in both games than the result suggests.
Leverkusen is now many steps further. The balance between offensive and defensive is good. The suddenly massive confidence doesn’t turn into a favor. Bayer took the lead in the championship for the first time in six years on Sunday, followed by what is arguably the best and most mature performance of the season in the derby. When asked how to beat Bayern, Amiri replied: “You need a lot of heart and a lot of will. We certainly have the quality.”
Quality that those responsible want to keep together. According to “kicker” information, the club has reached a long-term partnership with top talent Florian Wirtz. The contract is scheduled to end in the summer of 2025 or even in 2026. The trade magazine also reports that Moussa Diaby has prematurely extended his contract, which expires in 2024, by one year. The same should happen with defender Edmond Tapsoba, the 21-year-old must be tied tightly until 2026.
The Cologne coach Markus Gisdol felt “a bit of Bayern thinking” at the presentation of the Werkself on Wednesday evening. In the middle of a strong series FC lost no chance last year with 4-1 to Munich. “Leverkusen has now played something similar,” said Gisdol: “With incredible speed, dynamism and enthusiasm. That was great. They are playing great at the moment. You can see why they are in first place.”
Certainly also by Bosz, who may have been fired too early in Dortmund after a rocket launch in 2017, who also keeps professionals who hardly play in a good mood and under tension. The most recent example was Weiser. The 26-year-old was sort of dissolved. For the Europa League, he was the only fit professional who was not nominated. On Wednesday, he joined the team shortly before kick-off because Lars Bender was out. And scored the front gate in the old workplace after seven minutes.
“The coach came up to me during the warm-up. I just stopped the ball,” said Weiser. Such an attitude, Bosz praised, is “exactly what we need”. And so Bayer is the only unbeaten team in the league.
In short: it seems the right time to take a stand against Bayern at the end of this year. “Then it’s vacation,” said Amiri. “We can do everything again.”