Chelsea are set to begin their 2011-2012 Champions League campaign at home against the German side Bayer Leverkusen this Tuesday. Ahead of this game, I have done a little bit of research on how Bayer Leverkusen have been doing this season in the Bundesliga. They have had a decent start to their season (L, W, W, D, W) and are ranked 4th in the league with 10 points from the first 5 games.
|Bayer Leverkusen's League Results In the First Five Games Of the Season|
In the opening game of this season, Bayer Leverkusen suffered a 2-0 defeat away to Mainz, who finished 5th in the Bundesliga last season. Bayer had a couple of goal-scoring opportunities, but good goalkeeping by Mainz’s Heinz Muller prevented Bayer from finding the back of the net. On the other end, Bayer goalkeeper Fabian Giefer, selected ahead of David Yelldell following Bayer’s 4-3 defeat to Dynamo Dreden in the DFB-Pokal, was at fault for Mainz’s first goal. Giefer sliced his clearance and allowed Mainz’s striker Sami Allagui to pounce and finish from an acute angle.
After that game, Bayer Leverkusen manager Robin Dutt dropped Fabian Giefer and deployed on-loan goalkeeper Bernd Leno between the sticks. Bayer has, since, conceded only one goal in the next four league games. The stand-in keeper Leno didn’t concede a goal for about 290 minutes since his debut against Werder Bremen. To be fair to Giefer though, Leno has to make only 8 saves in the following 4 games while Giefer has to make 7 in that one game against Mainz. It is also fair to say that Bayer’s defense tightens up after the loss in the opening game. Bayer kept 3 consecutive clean sheets in games against Werder Bremen, VfB Stuttgart and the current champion Borrussia Dortmund.
|Bayer Leverkusen's Statistics In the First Five Games Of the Season|
Bayer’s goal tally up to this point (6 goals scored in 5 games) has been flattered by their recent 4-1 thrashing of the newly promoted side FC Augsburg. Without that result, Bayer only have 2 goals to their credit and they have failed to scored in 2 occasions in the last 5 games. Attacking left midfielder Sidney Sam and forward Stefan Kieβling have scored 2 goals each and are the current joint top goal scorers for Bayer. Most notably the pair combined to score a neat first goal against FC Augsburg; Kieβling executed a lovely turn and found Sam who finished calmly with his right foot to equalize within minutes of conceding a goal (see video below).
|Bayer's Most Frequently Used Starting XI So Far This Season|
Aside from Sidney Sam and Stefan Kieβling, slightly withdrawn forward Andre Schurrle and left fullback Michal Kadlec also pose considerable goal threat – both have recorded 4 Shots On Goal (the same number of SOGs as Sam and Kieβling) in the league so far. Kadlec, the left back, loves to get forward and shot from long range. He scored the decisive goal against Werder Bremen – finding the back of the net from close range after his initial header was blocked in a corner situation. He also takes free kicks from dangerous positions (think Leighton Baines or Aleksandar Kolarov in the BPL). Against VfB Stuttgart, Kadlec unleashed a 25-yard shot which was parried Stuttgart goalkeeper, but forward Kieβling was there to tap in the loose ball. [Note: In that game, former Chelsea defender Khalid Boulahrouz, who now plays for Stuttgart, got sent off for flipping the referee off (6:33 mins). Below, I’ve provided the link to the video. A must see!]
|Former Chelsea Midfielder Michael Ballack Has, So Far, Only Started Two Games For Bayer (144 mins)|
Although Bayer have kept 3 clean sheets in 5 games, they do have defensive weakness that is masked by brilliant goalkeeping and luck. The goalless draw against Borussia Dortmund was a game full of goal-scoring chances from both teams – real end to end stuff. But great goalkeeping from both sides, especially Leno who pulled out some swift reaction saves, kept the score line at 0-0.
|Werder Bremen's Missed Chance Against Bayer Leverkusen|
Against Werder Bremen (see picture above), Bayer were lucky not to have conceded a goal as Werder Bremen forward missed a total sitter from about 5 yards out. A low cross from the right was swung dangerously into Bayer’s six-yard box, but Werder Bremen forward, who got to the ball ahead of everyone, shot it over the crossbar.
|Stuttgart's First Missed Chance Against Bayer Leverkusen|
|Stuttgart's Second Missed Chance Against Bayer Leverkusen|
It was a similar story against Stuttgart. Not once, but twice, low crosses from the right are allowed to skip right between the Bayer defense and their goalkeeper. One bounced right between the legs of a Stuttgart forward as he tried to score from close range, while another rolled safely away from the goal as the same Stuttgart player failed to reach it.
Video Highlights of Bayer Leverkusen:
FC Augsburg vs Bayer Leverkusen (1 - 4)
Carefree, wherever you may be...