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Challengers level on points

Bayer vs. Bayern! The big match preview

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It’s the definition of a top-of-the-table clash! On Sunday afternoon, Bundesliga leaders FC Bayern take on closest challengers Bayer 04 Leverkusen (live ticker and Webradio from 9:30am ET on “It’s going to be a great game,” said FCB president Herbert Hainer. “There is this rivalry between Leverkusen and Bayern. Now both are at the top, level on points – and then they play each other on Sunday. I’m really looking forward to it.” The stage is set for a cracking contest on Matchday 8 – get all the information before the game with our preview.

Check out the best images from Bayern’s final training session before the trip to Leverkusen in the gallery:

The situation for FC Bayern

For Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann too, there’s obviously great anticipation for the crunch match. “These are special games when you have two teams next to each other in the table and in good form,” the 34-year-old told the press on Friday. “Bayern against Bayer has always been an exciting fixture.” Ahead of the latest edition of this Bundesliga classic, Nagelsmann’s side are in the right form following nine wins from their last 10 games in all competitions – even if they did suffer an unfortunate 2-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the last match before the international break. This has now been processed and they now have “the chance on Sunday to take the next step and continue our development,” according to Nagelsmann.

The Munich men have also been able to gain confidence from their exploits with their national teams. “I’m feeling very positive about our team,” said Hainer. “When I look at the players who have been away with their national teams, I think to myself, we’ll win the game.”

A top-of-the-table clash at Leverkusen is nothing new for Bayern. Ten months ago, they came out on top thanks to Robert Lewandowski:

The opponents: Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Leverkusen have been in brilliant form lately under coach Gerardo Seoane, who took over in the summer. Sixteen points after seven matchdays represents the club’s best start to a Bundesliga season in eight years. Since their only defeat of the campaign thus far – a dramatic 4-3 loss against Dortmund in mid-September – the Werkself have won their last five matches in all competitions and thus go into Sunday’s meeting with ample confidence. “It’s a big match that everyone’s fired up for! We want to produce the same performance and the same commitment that we have in recent matches,” commented defender Jonathan Tah.

Leverkusen’s attack, featuring rising star Florian Wirtz, has been particularly impressive. The 18-year-old has been directly involved in nearly half (nine) of the team’s 20 goals this term. “Wirtz’s statistics are incredible,” acknowledged Nagelsmann, who issued a stern warning about Bayer’s pacey attackers: “They have five players who run over 35 km/h – they’re no slouches.” Even though 20 goals at this stage of the season is another new record for the Rhineland club, that’s still four behind Bayern in the standings. Bayer therefore need to win to claim top spot – and Seoane believes his side are capable of it. “We’ve set ourselves the challenges of being able to hold our own against top teams. We suffered defeat against Dortmund. We want to do better against Bayern.”

Watch Julian Nagelsmann’s pre-match press conference in full:

The team news for Bayer vs. Bayern

Nagelsmann has almost a full squad to pick from. Along with the suspended Benjamin Pavard, the injured Sven Ulreich (knee) is the only other absentee. 

The hosts are also in healthy condition, with only Timothy Fosu-Mensah (recovery after cruciate ligament tear) and Julian Baumgartlinger (cruciate ligament injury) ruled out. Edmond Tapsoba could return to the squad after his syndesmosis tear.

What the coaches say

Julian Nagelsmann: “It’s going to be interesting. Leverkusen are having a very good season, they’ve developed well. They’ve already had a good team for a number of years, they’ve grown as a unit and fostered a good spirit. You see that in the results. They’ve just won five on the bounce and in convincing fashion. We need a very, very good away day and a good performance – but we certainly believe in ourselves. Of course it’s also significant for the table, so we’re looking forward to the match.”

Gerardo Seoane (Bayer 04 Leverkusen coach): “We’re going to take this match as a reference point to see where we currently stand in comparison to the best team in Germany. All the players will have to act with discipline. You can’t give much away against Bayern. We need to support each other in difficult moments and know that we need a good performance from our side. That’s also what we expect of ourselves, though. Indeed we want to be brave and aggressive, but at the same understand that sometimes you have to defend deep against opponents like this.”

Here are the facts and stats ahead of the clash at the BayArena: