Köln and Leverkusen were heavily defeated in their previous Bundesliga games, with both sides conceding five goals each. Despite this, both teams have had relatively strong starts to the season, making this fixture a pivotal opportunity to pick-up the form they left off on before the onslaught of gameweek eight.
Die Werkself fans will hope that their huge loss to Bayern Munich was a one off, due to the brilliance of Julian Nagelsmann and his men. Being only three points behind league leaders Bayern, Leverkusen will be aiming to bounce back from defeat, recommencing their strong start to the campaign, which sees them placed third in the league table.
Köln have started their season better than expected, sat in eighth position with 12 points from eight games played. Cologne’s 5-0 loss to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim was Steffen Baumgart’s second defeat in his nine games in charge of the club.
Florian Wirtz has been the key man in orchestrating Leverkusen’s success this season. The German midfielder has netted four goals and has provided a joint league-high of six assists in the current Bundesliga campaign. Following on from an emphatic EURO 2020 tournament, Patrik Schick has been able to replicate this fine form this season, scoring seven league goals to date. This Wirtz-Schick partnership will be crucial in Leverkusen’s battle for Champions League qualification. Amine Adli is set to return to the starting eleven, replacing Paulinho out wide. Exequiel Palacios could return to the midfield after suffering from an illness, however it is possible that Andrich will keep his place following his equaliser in the Europa League on Thursday.
FC Köln will be without midfielder Ellyes Skhiri for a few weeks after suffering a lower leg fracture whilst on international duty. Dejan Ljubicic has returned to training this week, so it is probable that he will go straight into the starting eleven. Club captain Jonas Hector has recovered from illness; however, Sebastian Andersson has not recovered in time for the game this weekend.
FC Köln: T. Horn - Schmitz, Kilian, Czichos, Hector (c) - Ljubicic - Thielmann, Uth, Kainz - Modeste, Andersson
Out: Skhiri (knee)
Doubtful: Ehizibue (groin), J. Horn (hip)
Leverkusen: Hradecky (c) - Frimpong, Kossounou, Tah, Bakker - Palacios, Demirbay - Adli, Wirtz, Diaby - Schick
Out: Aranguiz (calf), Baumgartlinger (knee), Fosu-Mensah (knee)
Players to Watch
18-year-old Florian Wirtz burst onto the German football scene last season. The attacking midfielder was quick to make an impression, with his technical ability and creative flair leading to incredible praise. The German wonderkid is being hailed as one of the greatest talents that the country has produced over the past decade, and it is easy to see why. Wirtz’s second-half winner against 1. FSV Mainz 05 saw him make history by becoming the youngest player to reach 10 Bundesliga goals. This led to Wirtz being voted as Bundesliga player of the month in September, and as a Cologne youth product, Wirtz will be raring to maintain his fantastic form against his former club.
With key player Ellyes Skhiri out, all eyes will be on Florian Kainz to step up to the mark. The Austrian midfielder currently ranks as one of the most effective crossers of the ball in the Bundesliga, having played 48 crosses into the opposition’s box this season. With two goals and one assist, it will be imperative that Kainz is able to create chances and produce in front of goal if FC Köln are to bring home three points against favourites Bayer Leverkusen.
During the 2020/21 season, Leverkusen comfortably came out victorious in their two fixtures against FC Köln. In December 2020, Leverkusen annihilated Cologne 4-0 away from home. The return fixture also had plenty of goals, as Leverkusen were able to beat Cologne 3-0 in April 2021. This follows the pattern illustrated by the derby history, where Leverkusen have 26 wins in their 66 top-flight encounters, compared to FC Köln’s 16.
How to Watch
Fans in the UK can watch the match on Sky Sports on Sunday at 14:30 BST, whilst fans in the US can watch the match using ESPN+.