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Undefeated Leverkusen eyeing 1st title

Undefeated Leverkusen eyeing 1st title

Bayern Munich has been unable to dislodge Bayer Leverkusen from the top of the Bundesliga despite six straight wins and Leverkusen's coach believes his team is ripe for its first championship.
Going into the 20th round, Leverkusen is still undefeated and has two points more than Bayern at 41.
"The team has developed outstandingly. I think it won't be easy to knock us down from the top," Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes said. "Our form and our successes speak for us."
Both clubs face promoted sides in the next round _ Bayern hosts Mainz on Saturday and Leverkusen plays Freiburg on Sunday.
Mainz has been one of the surprises of the season and is in eighth place, while Freiburg has fallen after a promising start and is now one place above the relegation zone.
Leverkusen is often the butt of jokes in Germany for its history of finishing second in major competitions. It has often played some of the most entertaining football but has lacked the consistency and perseverance to win titles. It won the German Cup in 1993 and the UEFA Cup in 1988 for its only trophies to date.
This season, however, Leverkusen looks capable of finally breaking through for a Bundesliga title.
The "aspirin club" _ so nicknamed because of its sponsor _ has a deep bench, the league's top scorer in Stefan Kiessling (12 goals) and a creative midfield led by Toni Kroos. Kroos, on loan from Bayern, has blossomed into one of the league's most entertaining and useful players at the moment and has contributed eight goals.
The addition of Finnish veteran Sami Hyypia has stabilized Leverkusen's defense, which is the stingiest in the league along with Schalke's. Both teams have conceded only 15 goals. Leverkusen also has the most proficient attack and tops the league with 42 goals.
"I can see the huge potential of Bayern but I also know what my team is capable of," Heynckes said. "And I can recall that last season the title went to a team no one expected to be champion."
That team was Wolfsburg, which has dropped to 10th after a nine-match winless streak and which sacked coach Armin Veh on Monday. Second-team coach Lorenz-Guenther Koestner will be in charge when Wolfsburg visits Hamburger SV on Friday.
The coach who took Wolfsburg to the title, Felix Magath, is now in charge of Schalke and his new team is third, at 38 points.
As he did while he was in Wolfsburg, Magath is playing down his team's title hopes.
"We are not that far, I don't see such a great improvement that we could have a chance of winning the title," Magath said.
Schalke next plays Hoffenheim at home on Saturday. Hoffenheim is winless in six games and has dropped to ninth.
Bayern is hoping for the return of winger Franck Ribery against Mainz. Ribery has made only seven Bundesliga appearances so far but says he is finally free of knee and other injuries and is eager to play.
"I have no pain and I need the competition now," he said after playing in a friendly Tuesday.
Coach Louis van Gaal, however, said Thursday that Ribery was not yet ready for a full game and will not start, although the Frenchman may again come off the bench, as he did in last week's 3-2 win at Werder Bremen.
"I think he is still not fit. It takes time. He knows he is not yet fit," van Gaal said.
Van Gaal also said he saw no reason to change a winning side.
Also Saturday, it's Borussia Moenchengladbach vs. Werder Bremen; Eintracht Frankfurt vs, Cologne; Hertha Berlin vs. Bochum and Hannover vs. Nuremberg.
On Sunday, Stuttgart hosts Borussia Dortmund.


Updated : 2021-07-27 00:35 GMT+08:00