bundesliga.com takes a look at how the Rhineland club are shaping up ahead of the 2014/5 campaign...
Expectations on South Korean forward were high after his arrival at the BayArena from Hamburger SV in summer 2013. Son didn't disappoint, hitting the net ten times throughout the season, including a wonderful hat-trick against his former club. However, no goals and only two assists in the UEFA Champions League hints at potential for improvement on a continental stage. The pacey, two-footed 22-year old certainly has the potential,and if he can deliver, the sky's the limit.
When inspired Karlsruher SC to promotion from the third division into the Bundesliga 2 in 2012/13, at the age of 18, Hamburg sat up and took notice. He then delivered another 11 goals - including this now famous free-kick against Borussia Dortmund - to almost single-handedly help HSV beat the drop last season. Now, set to compete at the top of the table and test his mettle in the Champions League, 20-year-old Calhanoglu's star looks set to rise even higher.
A record of mixed success under Sami Hyypiä last season did not discourage Leverkusen's men in charge to invest another head coach with no experience in the Bundesliga. After much searching, they eventually succeeded in luring former SC Paderborn boss Roger Schmidt away from Austrian champions FC Salzburg where the attack-minded 47-year-old had earned himself quite a reputation, having won the Austrian domestic double on 2014. “The way his sides play is the future of modern football,” says sporting director Rudi Völler.
Having acquired some of the Bundesliga's finest young talent in Calhanoglu, Josip Drmic (1. FC Nürnberg) and Kyriakos Papadopoulos (FC Schalke 04), as well as Brazil prospect from Gremio FBPA this summer, anything but a top-four finish would be a disappointment at the BayArena. “Our target is to qualify for the Champions League and hopefully give some of the sides above us a hard time too,” Völler told Sport Bild. New coach Schmidt, meanwhile, hinted: “We want to excite people.”
After finishing the first half of 2013/14 campaign second with 37 points, hopes of a maiden Bundesliga title soon collapsed, a streak of 12 defeats in 17 matches eventually jeopardising even their chances of qualifying for the Champions League. In April, changes were wrought, as Hyypiä was replaced by a caretaker coach in Sascha Lewandowski, who presided over a run of four wins and a draw to secure fourth spot in the table for Son (pictured) and Co.
“Competition and quality in the squad are very high,” admitted Schmidt after his first weeks in charge. The new head coach has hinted he might try a 4-4-2 rather than last season's 4-3-3, in order to accommodate both and new recruit up front. (pictured) remains Leverkusen's undisputed No1 and Calhanoglu seems a safe tip for a spot at the heart of the Werkself's midfield. Papadopoulos, Ömer Toprak, Emir Spahic and Philipp Wollscheid are all in the race for two places at centre-back.
Following an up-and-down start to the new season - a 6-0 victory against Belgian side Lierse SK, followed by defeat to France's Olympique de Marseille and a draw against lower league Alemannia Aachen - Bayer eventually got into their stride during their tour of South Korea, beating FC Seoul 2-0. Last season's English Premier League high-flyers Southampton FC were then dispatched as were Alemannia Waldalgesheim 6-0 in their DFB Cup opener before Matchday 1's trip to Dortmund.