Season preview: Bayer Leverkusen

Season preview: Bayer Leverkusen
© PA Photos
Sports Mole previews Bayer Leverkusen's chances of muscling in on Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund's domination of the Bundesliga.

With the Bundesliga season beginning this weekend, Sports Mole casts its eye over Bayer Leverkusen's summer and their prospects for the 2013-14 campaign.

In:

Roberto Hilbert (Besiktas), Emir Spahic (Sevilla), Giulio Donati (Inter Milan), Robbie Kruse (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Heung Min Son (Hamburger SV), Andres Palop (Sevilla), Konstantinos Stafylidis (PAOK)

Out:

Andre Schurrle (Chelsea), Michal Kadlec (Fenerbache), Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid CF), Christoph Kramer (Borussia Monchengladbach, loan), Michael Rensing (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Hajime Hosogai (Hertha Berlin), Daniel Schwaab (VfB Stuttgart), Nicolai Jorgensen (FC Kobenhavn,), Manuel Friedrich (released)

Last Season: 3rd

Manager: Sami Hyypia

Three key players:


Leverkusen's Lars Bender celebrates scoring the his team's second against Augsburg on February 16, 2013© PA Photos
Lars Bender - While the exploits of Andre Schurrle and Stefan Kiessling in attack last season were rightly lauded, Bender's no-nonsense style at the hub of the midfield did not go unnoticed. The 24-year-old has enviable fitness levels - something that he displays on a weekly basis by covering all areas of the pitch. Arsenal were believed to have bid around £18m for his services earlier this summer, but Leverkusen rejected their advances. If the Gunners return, then it's important that the German outfit hold firm.


Hamburg's Son Heung-Min on November 3, 2012© AP Photos
Son Heung-Min - Gonzalo Castro aside, Leverkusen's midfielders struggled to contribute in terms of goals last term. There was no such problem for Son, who scored 12 times for Hamburg. The South Korea international has taken that form into pre-season, having scored three times for his new club. Statistics like that suggest that Hyypia has landed himself a bargain when you consider that the 21-year-old cost a reported £8m. He will bring versatility to the BayArena as he can play on either flank, as well as in a central position.


Bayer Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling on March 3, 2012© PA Photos
Stefan Kiessling - There were few strikers in Europe last season who were more clinical than Kiessling in front of goal. In fact, it was a bit of a surprise that none of the bigger clubs made a move for the 29-year-old - they still might, of course. The pressure will be on the frontman to at least match his 25-goal haul in the Bundesliga, particularly because Schurrle has departed for the English Premier League with Chelsea.

First game: Freiburg (H), Complete fixture list

Sports Mole says: Former Liverpool defender Hyypia has a very useful squad at his disposal, there can be no denying that. Unfortunately for the Finn, his counterparts at Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have much deeper reserves. Leverkusen are the favourites to finish behind the big two and providing that they can keep Kiessling fit, it's an expectation that they should fulfill. However, should he pick up a long-term injury, it will lessen their chances of even qualifying for the Champions League, thanks largely to the fact that there is not any proven backup.

Predicted finish: 3rd

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Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling celebrates scoring the opener against Augsburg on February 16, 2013
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Result: Bayer secure third place
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Bayern Munich23192255183759
2Borussia DortmundDortmund23117548291940
3Eintracht FrankfurtFrankfurt2311663226639
4Bayer LeverkusenB. Leverkusen23108543301338
5RB Leipzig2311573631538
6Schalke 04Schalke2310763630637
7Hannover238873233-132
8Augsburg238783229331
9Hoffenheim238783737031
10Borussia MonchengladbachBorussia M'bach2394103035-531
11Hertha Berlin237973030030
12Freiburg2361072437-1328
13Stuttgart2383121927-827
14Wolfsburg2441372731-425
15Mainz 052466122942-1324
16Werder Bremen2358102128-723
17Hamburger SV2345141834-1617
18FC Koln2335152042-2214
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