Bayer Leverkusen remained intent in stomping forward with their march onto a coveted UEFA Champions League place as they host a struggling Augsburg side on Sunday.
Peter Bosz’s side have primed themselves as genuine top-four contenders and can further consolidate that by making an example out of their opponents. Augsburg are desperate for a win to try sneak into the top-10, but gaining anything against one of Bundesliga’s most in-form attacks would be a formidable task.
Story behind the game
Leverkusen have been on an absolute roll following the winter break, winning four out of their last five league games following the turn of the year. They’ve done so with conviction, playing ruthless attacking football and picking up some big wins at that.
On the other hand, Augsburg’s 2020 has been a nightmare. They’ve lost three out of their five post-winter break games, conceding 14 goals at that! While the recent draw against Freiburg gave Martin Schmidt’s side some parity, only a positive result at the BayArena can raise their spirits.
Unfortunately for the Fuggerstadter, they hold a pretty dismal record against Bayer in their recent games. Die Werkself have won their last three games against Augsburg in dominating fashion and considering both the sides run of form, that’s unlikely to change.
Bosz’s side just can’t afford to slip up right now if they’re to aspire to qualify for the Champions League. In an extremely tight race for a top-4 spot, only the strongest survive. They must pick up a thumping win to pile pressure on those above them and hope somebody slips up to grand them the advantage.
For Augsburg, however, the stakes are not quite that high. They’re well safe off relegation and far out from a European spot. However, they need some momentum to get back fighting for a respectable finish. A win could see them break into the top half of the table and more importantly prove their mettle against top sides.
Bayer Leverkusen have a few niggles as Karim Bellarabi and Moussa Diaby both missed their Europa League clash against FC Porto and could miss the league game as well. Kevin Volland also suffered a slight injury which could see him miss the game as well.
Augsburg also have a few injuries, with striker Sergio Cordova and youngster Simon Asta both being on the treatment table.
Bayer Leverkusen XI: Hradecky, L. Bender, Tah. S.Bender, Sinkgraven, Havertz, Aranguiz, Baumgartlinger, Amiri, Bailey, Alario
Augsburg XI: Koubek, Lichsteiner, Gouweleeuw, Jedvaj, Iago, Richter, Khedira, Baier, Max, Niederlechner, Finnbogason
Kai Havertz vs Philipp Max
Kai Havertz has rediscovered his groove with Leverkusen after the winter-break, putting in some stunning displays in their recent dominating wins. The German midfielder will be primed to continue his impressive run against Augsburg’s wobbly defence, tormenting them with his movement and lethality in the final third.
However, Philipp Max will try to ensure he doesn’t get a free pass. Augsburg’s left wing-back is on a blistering run himself, but he’ll aim to prove his defensive strengths by nullifying Havertz’s threat and also put his set-piece delivery to good use and power his side to gaining a positive result.
Florian Niederlechner vs Sven Bender
During Augsburg’s poor run of form, Florian Niederlechner’s brilliant form has been a spark of positivity. He’s scored three goals out of their last five following the winter break, being their biggest attacking threat. Niederlechner’s cunning work in the final third, creativity and clinical nature has amplified Augsburg’s threat, as he’ll look to get back to scoring ways against Leverkusen.
But captain Sven Bender should have something to say about that. The German defender’s been a pillar for Leverkusen’s defensive sturdiness, leading from the front with his fearless attitude. He’ll aim to cut down Niederlechner’s threat with his stringent defending and ensure his side don’t buckle under pressure.