Leverkusen - Only one question remains on the Leverkusen lips this season: will Stefan Kießling get his hands on the coveted top scorers' cannon?
The 29-year-old took his Bundesliga tally to 24 in Saturday's 3-1 win over Hannover 96 to move one clear of Borussia Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski atop the scorers' charts, with one round of fixtures left to play. Now he just has to stay there.
"Of course I’d be really happy if it happens," said Kießling after the game. "But the most important thing is that we as a team reached our goal of qualifying for the [UEFA] Champions League. To still have the chance to be top scorer is great. Of course I want to make it happen. It'd be the icing on the cake following a really successful season for us."
The only Bundesliga outfit to have beaten champions FC Bayern this season and qualifying directly for European club football's most prestigious competition, the success of the Bayer collective is irrefutable. "It's been a great season," Kießling continued. "Securing Champions League qualification with three games to spare was a great relief and a source of immense pleasure. That just goes to show how strong we've been this season and the spirit we've shown."
Kießling's contribution to such a feat is unquestionable. Scoring 37.5 per cent of Bayer's 64 Bundesliga goals so far this season, the Lichtenfels-born striker not only wrapped up third-place from the penalty spot against his old club Nuremberg back on Matchday 32, but in doing so surpassed Ulf Kirsten's long-standing club record of 22 league goals in a season (1996-97 and 1997-98).
His status as Werkself legend assured, Kießling can now look forward to penning a new chapter in the great Bundesliga chronicles; not that he's feeling any sort of pressure ahead of Saturday's final curtain call at Hamburger SV. "There's not much point in putting yourself under pressure," he explained. "I try to forget about it over the course of a game […] We'll be doing everything we can in Hamburg to bring the cannon back to Leverkusen."
Christopher Mayer-Lodge/ Markus Hoffmann