Bayer Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick is confident his side will improve on last season's sixth-place finish in the Bundesliga. - © Lars Baron/Getty Images
Bayer Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick is confident his side will improve on last season's sixth-place finish in the Bundesliga. - © Lars Baron/Getty Images
bundesliga

Patrik Schick on Bayer Leverkusen top-four hopes: "We're on the right track"

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Bayer Leverkusen's 20-goal striker Patrik Schick insists his side have what it takes to clinch a return to the UEFA Champions League by sealing a top-four finish in the Bundesliga.

Leverkusen sit third in the table with seven matches left, but RB Leipzig, Freiburg and Hoffenheim are all within four points in what is set to be a thrilling race for European places.

The chances of Die Werkself holding on to their position took a hit in March, when Germany star Florian Wirtz, flying Dutch right-back Jeremie Frimpong and French attacking midfielder Amine Adli all picked up serious injuries.

Fit-again Schick has returned to training ahead of Saturday's home fixture with Hertha Berlin, however, and the Czech Republic international is confident Leverkusen can book a ticket to the Champions League.

"That's been our big target since the start of the season - and I think we're on the right track to achieve it," he told Leverkusen's 35 Werkself magazine.

"We're in a good position in the race but we haven't achieved anything yet. There are still a number of steps to take."

The first of those will be against Hertha, who are third from bottom but earned an important 3-0 win over Hoffenheim last time out. Schick is out to prove his fitness for that one, and his imminent return will provide a huge boost to his team at the business end of the campaign.

Described in December by Leverkusen head coach Gerardo Seoane as a "sensational player", Schick has scored 20 goals in as many league matches this term. The last of those came in a 3-2 defeat against Mainz in February, when he also picked up the calf injury that has kept him out until now.

That setback put a stop to a run of 12 goals in 10 league matches in what has been a particularly memorable season for the Bundesliga's Player of the Month for December.

Watch: Schick starred in December 

"I didn't expect to score my goals so regularly," the 26-year-old admitted. "The bottom line is that I've scored in nearly all the games."

Schick came into the 2021/22 season off the back of some wonderful performances for his country at UEFA Euro 2020, where he reached the quarter-finals and finished as the tournament's joint top goalscorer. The former Leipzig forward believes the first half of the campaign was the best he's ever had, and he put his improved form down to a slight tweak to his game.

"Before the season I set out to definitely be more clinical in future," he explained. "Everything I do on the pitch should lead to the benefit of the team. That includes me trying to play with just one or two touches of the ball and not dribble as often… fundamentally I try to play my game quicker."

That has allowed Schick to remain the closest player to Robert Lewandowski in the Bundesliga scoring chart this season - despite missing seven games through injury. The Bayern Munich star leads the way with 31 strikes, and also got his 75th international goal earlier this week to help Poland qualify for this year's FIFA World Cup with a 2-0 win over Sweden.

Watch: Schick got four goals against Fürth

"He's just always where he has to be," said Schick, when asked what makes his fellow frontman so special. "His wonderful reliability and finishing, his movement in the penalty area, his links with his teammates - for me there's nobody better in the world.

"It's just incredible how he performs and delivers week after week. Robert just doesn't stop scoring at the moment."

The same could be said, of course, of a man who has hit 30 percent of Leverkusen's Bundesliga goals this season. The sooner Schick returns, then, the better his side's chances of a top-four finish are.