Rückrunde Preview: Bayer Leverkusen
The shortest ever winter hiatus in German football is about to come to an end, which gives us the opportunity to profile each team's chances in the second half of the campaign as we preview them one by one.
The main focus would be on the top dogs of German football as in the likes of Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Monchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund etc.
In our first of the many Rückrunde previews soon to come, we will take a look at Bayer Leverkusen's chances of challenging for the top four in the second half of the season.
Season so far
It has been a great season so far for Bayer Leverkusen, who have managed to resurrect themselves following a horrendous season last term.
Thanks to the motivational powers and tactical philosophy of new head coach Heiko Herrlich, the German giants have managed to emerge as one of the most impressive teams in the German top flight this season.
Despite a mass exodus in the summer, after the club lost the likes of Hakan Calhanoglu, Javier Hernandez, Omer Toprak and Kevin Kampl, Herrlich deserves enormous credit for salvaging their season.
Up until the halfway point of the Hinrunde, it was a rather decent season for die werkself, having won only three matches in their eight Bundesliga games.
However, the Rhineland giants have looked a completely different side since their 5:1 thumping of Borussia Monchengladbach. Aside from being unbeaten since November, the factory giants have also managed to win seven of their last eleven matches all competitions.
Currently sitting fourth in the league table, things are looking bright for Leverkusen, prior to the start of Bundesliga Rückrunde.
Targets for the second half of the campaign
Bayer Leverkusen will look to build from the start once again, meaning a fourth-placed finish would be an ideal objective for the Rhineland outfit.
Getting back into the UEFA Champions League fold would, in fact, be a huge accomplishment for a club who were on the brink of relegation last season. However, with so much competition, fans would still feel content with a UEFA Europa League finish as well.
Transfer market activity
Almost all of Bayer Leverkusen's summer signings have lived up to their billing this season, meaning die werkself hardly need any reinforcements in the January transfer window.
Players like Leon Bailey, Julian Brandt, Lars Bender and Kevin Volland have been among the league's best performers this season.
However, Bayer Leverkusen would be willing to get rid of Julian Baumgartlinger, who has been a huge disappointment after making his move from Mainz at the start of last season. The Austrian International still has the quality to become an integral part of any mid-table Bundesliga side, and therefore, they can also get a decent valuation for the defensive midfielder.
Here's a look at what we think has been Bayer Leverkusen's strongest lineup has been this season.
One player to look forward to
It's definitely Leon Bailey who deserves the most attention this season, following a stunning Hinrunde campaign.
Not only has he been the best performer for Leverkusen but he has also made a strong impact in the Bundesliga. After a difficult start to his life in German football at the backend of last season, he has taken his game to a whole new level this season, which has attracted massive interest from the Premier League.
His six goals and four assists have helped Leverkusen challenge the top four this season and the Jamaican will be equally important for die werkself for the second half of the campaign.
Considering the fact that a total of ten teams are constantly battling it out for the three Champions League positions available(granting Bayern have already won the title), Leverkusen might find it difficult to maintain their consistency throughout the course of the season and stay afloat among the top dogs of German football.
However, their pool of exciting new talent has kept the club in a very good position at the moment. While Bernd Leno, Jonathan Tah and Sven Bender has kept things in tip-top shape at the back, the deadly attacking trio of Julian Brandt, Leon Bailey and Kevin Volland have a combined total of 19 goals, more than half of Leverkusen's overall goal-scoring tally this season.
Overall, Bayer Leverkusen have a strong chance of finishing above the likes of RB Leipzig, Borussia Monchengladbach and Eintracht Frankfurt if they can continue keeping things going in the right direction for the entirety of the season.