Going into tonight's top-of-the-table clash at the Allianz Arena, Bayer Leverkusen lead Bayern Munich on goal difference with maximum points after three games. Xabi Alonso's men have made a remarkable start to the season, but can they really challenge the German champions?
|Photo: Bayer 04 Leverkusen|
One of the main reasons for both clubs' perfect starts has been their new signings. Bayern Munich’s major signings of the summer were Harry Kane from Tottenham and Kim Min-Jae from Napoli. Both players have settled in well in Bavaria and managed to make an early impact. Kane already has 3 goals in the league and Kim has managed to make the Bayern defense solid.
When it comes to Leverkusen they’re probably the club that most benefited from their new players so far this season. Nigerian striker Victor Boniface, who has been voted both player and rookie of the month in the Bundesliga, has made an instant impact and has brought that goal-scoring threat Leverkusen were desperate for. The addition of senior players like Granit Xhaka and Jonas Hofmann has also meant that Leverkusen have key players in important positions.
Leverkusen’s approach in these early games has been interesting. Their 4-2-4 attacking formation has helped them open up teams with ease. They rely both on patient build-up and controlling the ball as well as quick transitions. While Xhaka is tasked with controlling the midfield and playing forward passes the likes of Florian Wirtz, Hofmann and Frimpong are the main creators of the team. Boniface, on the other hand, is finishing the chances provided to him.¨
Can Leverkusen keep it up?
The big question now is if Leverkusen will be able to become a true challenger to Bayern. Early season form suggests that they’re in the right way but it takes more than a few wins to stop the record champions. Leverkusen need to maintain their form throughout the season and show up in the big games such as the one that will take place on Friday.
Everyone is excited about Leverkusen, but as the last few Bundesliga seasons have shown, Bayern tend to respond when such opposition comes to their ground. They’ve done it against the likes of Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig and Alonso’s side need to be careful that it doesn’t happen to them as well.
Tuchel is already looking ahead to the challenge from Alonso and had praise for the Spaniard: "He will continue on a very successful path. You could predict from his playing days that he might be a good coach. I learned a lot about football from watching him as a player. He was a leading figure everywhere. He had a natural aura and excellent anticipation. I'm looking forward to meeting him."
Alonso described Boniface as a great player and special player. “He’s a striker but he doesn’t just play for himself, he’s generous. We are really happy to have him here". He believes that If Leverkusen play to how they know they can play, they have every chance.
The game is expected to excite and entertain. Two sides that are led by two brilliant tacticians and players on top of their game in a full Allianz Arena is what the Bundesliga is all about. The game can also tell us more about whether our collective excitement over Leverkusen is warranted.