Sports Mole previews Bayer Leverkusen's chances of muscling in on Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund's domination of the Bundesliga.
By Liam Apicella, Features Editor Filed: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 at 12:25 UK
Last Updated: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 at 16:08 UK
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.