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January 14, 2011 7:30 PM GMT
BayArena — Leverkusen
Referee:‬ P. Gagelmann‎
Attendance:‬ 30210‎

Bundesliga Preview: Bayer Leverkusen – Borussia Dortmund

As the Bundesliga resumes, Goal.com previews a match that could make or break Leverkusen’s title chances.

By Clark Whitney

Dortmund v Leverkusen, Shinji Kagawa and Michael Ballack (Getty Images)
Fully Fit Leverkusen Squad Aiming For Titles

For the second year running, Leverkusen had a strong showing in the first half of the season. Die Werkself resume play in third place, level on points with Mainz, but still have a chance at winning the Bundesliga title. Given Dortmund’s limited propensity to drop points, in order to remain in the race, victory on Friday is almost a necessity. Such a result would cut the gap to a manageable seven points, whereas a loss would effectively end a chance for glory for Jupp Heynckes’ men.

There is reason to believe that in contrast to previous years, when they have struggled in the second half of the season, Leverkusen will rise to the occasion in 2011. Michael Ballack is not quite at peak fitness, but is well on his way to a full recovery after sustaining consecutive crippling injuries. As well, Stefan Kiessling, Gonzalo Castro, Renato Augusto and skipper Simon Rolfes are finally at 100%, meaning that for the first time in ages, Heynckes will have a full arsenal of options at his disposal.

Should Leverkusen’s stars remain healthy, this spring could be a very fruitful one. Their trajectory has in recent years been a positive one, and with complete fulfillment of their potential, die Werkself could yet win their first title in 18 years.

Kagawa-less Dortmund Raring To Go

The hindrunde of the Bundesliga could hardly have gone any better for Dortmund, who barely missed out on a Bundesliga points record for points in a fall campaign. Currently 10 points clear of Leverkusen—and 14 ahead of 2010 league winners Bayern, the title is now considered BvB’s to lose. A recent poll suggested as much, with 70% of Bundesliga coaches labeling the Ruhr side runaway favourites for the title.

There still remain 17 matches to play, though, and BvB will have their share of obstacles to overcome in order to finish the season atop the table. In particular, Dortmund will have to do without talismanic playmaker Shinji Kagawa for as many as three matches. The 21-year old, who has been hailed by many as the Bundesliga’s best player of the fall campaign is currently at the Asian Cup with Japan, and his replacement remains subject for speculation: Juergen Klopp remained coy on the issue, claiming that Mohamed Zidan, Tamas Hajnal and Mario Goetze are all candidates for the role.

On the pus side, Klopp’s men managed to win their most recent friendly against Basel by a 4-0 margin: it appears that even without Kagawa, the leaders are ready to hit the ground running as the spring campaign begins.



Michael Ballack is fit once more after a lengthy injury absence, but the veteran is expected only to feature as a second half substitute. Burak Kaplan is the only definite absentee among Jupp Heynckes' men, although Arturo Vidal is currently rated as questionable.

Probable Starting XI: Adler –Schwaab, Friedrich, Reinartz, Castro - Vidal, Rolfes - Renato Augusto, Sam - Helmes, Kiessling


In the absence of Kagawa, Mario Goetze is expected to deputise, although Mohamed Zidan remains an option for Juergen Klopp. Lucas Barrios is expected to be fit in time for Friday's match, but Robert Lewandowski could start if the Paraguay striker is not 100%. Patrick Owomoyela, Sebastian Kehl and Florian Kringe are all in training, but have all been ruled out of contention to play.

Probable Starting XI: Weidenfeller – Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer - Bender, Sahin - Kuba, Goetze, Grosskreutz - Barrios

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Reader's Predictions
Top 3 Predictions
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Last Five Matches
Team News
Available Squads
15René AdlerGoalkeeper
27Gonzalo CastroDefender
2Manuel FriedrichDefender
3Stefan ReinartzMidfielder
3Daniel SchwaabDefender
10Renato AugustoMidfielder
6Simon RolfesMidfielder
8Lars BenderMidfielder
18Sidney SamMidfielder
11Stefan KießlingStriker
17Patrick HelmesStriker
33Fabian GieferGoalkeeper
-Sami HyypiaDefender
5Hanno BalitschMidfielder
13Michael BallackMidfielder
25Tranquillo BarnettaMidfielder
9Eren DerdiyokStriker
23Arturo VidalMidfielder
1Roman WeidenfellerGoalkeeper
29Marcel SchmelzerDefender
15Mats HummelsDefender
4Neven SuboticDefender
26Lukasz PiszczekDefender
19Kevin GroßkreutzMidfielder
18Nuri SahinMidfielder
19Mario GötzeMidfielder
6Sven BenderMidfielder
16Jakub BlaszczykowskiMidfielder
9Robert LewandowskiStriker
20Mitchell LangerakGoalkeeper
7Markus FeulnerMidfielder
35Mohamed ZidanStriker
8Antônio da SilvaMidfielder
19L. BarriosStriker
5Felipe SantanaDefender
Players to Watch
Lars Bender
Lars Bender
Position: Midfielder
Squad Number: 8
Games Goals YC RC
26 2 4 1
The Brazilian magician scored against Dortmund in the fall, and might be up for a repeat performance on Friday. Augusto is a real talent when fit, as he should be for his team’s most anticipated match of the season.
Sven Bender
Sven Bender
Position: Midfielder
Squad Number: 6
Games Goals YC RC
19 1 2 0
Nearly all paths to goal go through the Turk, who was the Bundesliga’s most consistent, and arguably greatest, player during the fall campaign. His duel with Arturo Vidal will be an enticing one, indeed.
Probable Lineups
René Adler 15
Gonzalo Castro 27
Manuel Friedrich 2
Stefan Reinartz 3
Daniel Schwaab 3
Renato Augusto 10
Simon Rolfes 6
Lars Bender 8
Sidney Sam 18
Stefan Kießling 11
Patrick Helmes 17
Roman Weidenfeller 1
Marcel Schmelzer 29
Mats Hummels 15
Neven Subotic 4
Lukasz Piszczek 26
Kevin Großkreutz 19
Nuri Sahin 18
Mario Götze 19
Sven Bender 6
Jakub Blaszczykowski 16
Robert Lewandowski 9
Normally, playing at home would be an advantage. However, both Leverkusen and Dortmund have been at their best away from home. This alone does not necessarily make the visitors favourites, but increases their odds of pulling off at least a draw. The availability and fitness of Lucas Barrios could prove decisive.
Editor's Prediction
Top Scorers
Player   Goals Penalties
Robert Lewandowski Robert Lewandowski
18 4
Mario Mandzukic Mario Mandzukic
18 0
Adrian Ramos Adrian Ramos
Hertha BSC
16 3
Josip Drmic Josip Drmic
FC Nürnberg
16 2
Marco Reus Marco Reus
15 5