Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich Preview: Could Reds be distracted from title charge?

Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich Preview: Could Reds be distracted from title charge?

Carlo Ancelotti's men are closing in on the Bundesliga title, but could the Champions League distract them at the BayArena?

James Rees

Bayern Munich are closing in on the Bundesliga title and they will be looking to get one of the three victories they need against Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday night.

However, the match comes in between UEFA Champions League games against Real Madrid, and a potentially much-changed Bayern will be travelling to a ground where they have only won once in their last seven Bundesliga visits.

Leverkusen might have just one victory under Tayfun Korkut, but they may be quietly confident of getting an important three points as they look to steer themselves well away of any relegation danger.

Champions League tie could be distraction for Bayern

Bayern have lost just one Bundesliga game in their last 17 matches – at the beginning of the month – and only two all season. They seem all but certain to win a fifth title in a row, with Carlo Ancelotti keen to wrap it up “sooner rather than later.” They need three more wins, but any slip up from RB Leipzig could lead to them doing it as soon as next weekend.

This match comes less than 72 hours after Bayern were beaten 2-1 by Real in the Champions League, with Ancelotti admitting the side were “obviously not happy” with how things had gone. Whilst he expects his side to “show a positive reaction” against Leverkusen, the ongoing quarter-final could prove to be a cause for distraction.

As for Leverkusen, they are as close to the bottom three as they are to succeeding in their quest for European football. Interim coach Korkut has not had a major effect on results since arriving, with their only win in five games coming against bottom club SV Darmstadt 98.

Bayern won their last Bundesliga outing 4-1 against Borussia Dortmund last weekend, but Leverkusen slipped to a 1-0 defeat to second-placed Leipzig. Despite Bayern having one eye on Madrid, not to mention several injury concerns, Korkut expects an exciting game against “a top side” – regardless of who starts for the champions.

Bayern looking for first win in Leverkusen for four years

Leverkusen had put up a good showing when the two sides last met in November, however Mat Hummels’s goal early in the second half gave Bayern a 2-1 win.

Overall, Bayern unsurprisingly have a dominate record over Leverkusen, with 50 wins in 82 previous meetings. That said, excluding a victory on penalties in the DFB-Pokal two seasons ago, the Bavarians haven’t won at the BayArena since March 2013, and you have to go back to 2008 for the one before that.

Leverkusen have managed just the sole victory against Bayern over the past four years though. However the 2-0 win in May 2015 came after Bayern had already been crowned champions, allowing them to field a weakened side. Hakan Calhanoglu and Julian Brandt scored the goals for the Werkself.

Boateng out but Bellarabi fit

Calhanoglu, due to his ongoing suspension, is one of several absentees for the hosts on Saturday. Jonathan Tah and Lars Bender remain out injured as well, whilst the game comes a little too soon for Javier Hernández. Korkut said he was “recovering very well” though and should be available again for the final few games.

Karim Bellarabi will be available having recovered from a tight problem that had limited him to just 45 minutes against Leipzig and seen him absent from training for much of the week. That may allow them to field the same eleven that started against Darmstadt and Leipzig.

Already without Hummels and Robert Lewandowski, who would have missed this game with suspension even without his injured shoulder, Bayern will also rue the loss of Jérôme Boateng with a minor adductor problem.

Ancelotti confirmed David Alaba will play alongside Javi Martínez in the central of defence, with Juan Bernat filling in at left-back. He could also rest a few more – most likely the older players in the squad – with the second game in Madrid on the horizon. “I’ll look at training today and then decide about the line-up,” he said on Friday.

Predicted line-ups

Bayer Leverkusen: (4-2-3-1) Hilbert, Toprak, Jedvaj, Wendell; Kampl, Baumgartlinger; Bellarabi, Havertz, Brandt; Volland.

Bayern Munich: (4-2-3-1) Neuer; Rafinha, Martínez, Alaba, Bernat; Kimmich, Vidal; Coman, Thiago, Costa; Müller.

Quotes via Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen.