Leverkusen - Red is the colour leading the way in the Bundesliga with FC Bayern Munich top and Bayer 04 Leverkusen set to end the calendar year as their nearest, yet still distant, challengers. To achieve that, the Werkself need a point in their final game of the year against Hamburger SV on Saturday (kick-off 15:30 CET).
Red hot Hitman
With the league’s joint top-goalscorer in red-hot form, it’s no surprise that Bayer have crept almost unnoticed into such a prominent position.
His ten goals have lifted Sami Hyypiä's side into their most comfortable position at the halfway stage since they led the way into 2010, a year in which they finished fourth. Kießling is also unrivalled in his goalscoring antics for 2012 with 23 Bundesliga goals - more than anybody else over the last 12 months.
The real secret to Kießling’s potency lies in the supply line, however. Part of Bayer's threat undoubtedly lies in the fact that several players are capable of providing the killer pass. and Daniel Carvajal have each created four, has set up three, while Gonzalo Castro has two assists to his name.
HSV on the rise
With an average of almost two goals per match, Leverkusen's strengths are clear. "We now want to round the year off with a good game and result," said Hyypiä. However, on Saturday the hosts will be put to the test by a Hamburg side who have been stealthily creeping up the table of late themselves.
After Matchday 3, Thorsten Fink’s men were second from bottom, but the arrival of Rafael van der Vaart inspired them to a climb up the standings, which, after a few minor setbacks, has seen them reach their highest position of the season. Yet the last few games, which van der Vaart has missed due to an injury which also rules him out on Saturday, have proven that HSV are far from a one-man side.
Goalkeeper , who faces his former club tomorrow, central defender Heiko Westermann and versatile forward have all starred in Hamburg’s resurgence. The latter is the club's top scorer with six, level with Latvian sniper , whose brace earned the club victory over Hoffenheim last weekend.
All in all, Fink can therefore look back on a promising, if not successful first half of the campaign. "We can now make it even more positive," said the 45-year-old. "That's the attraction on Saturday, to move onto 25 or even 27 points. We started the season badly, then we stabilised, and recently we’ve been playing well."
Leverkusen: Leno - Hosogai, Wollscheid, Friedrich, Boenisch - Bender, Rolfes, Hegeler - Castro, Kießling, Schürrle
Hamburg: Adler - Diekmeier, Mancienne, Westermann, Lam - Badelj - Skjelbred, Aogo - Arslan - Rudnevs, Beister