Leverkusen - He might be the top-goalscorer both in the current season and of the calendar year, but Bayer 04 Leverkusen striker Stefan Kießling is unlikely to let himself get carried away.
The modest 28-year-old once again demonstrated his goalscoring prowess in a 3-0 win over Hamburger SV, scoring twice and setting up another, yet he recognises his personal achievements could mean very little come the end of the current campaign."It'd be a no-win situation if I topped the scoring charts at the end of the season, yet the club finished seventh," Kießling stressed after taking his tally to 25 for the calendar year 2012.
Numbers speak volumes about the former 1. FC Nuremberg player, who struck his second brace and broke the deadlock for the seventh time this season. However, his importance goes beyond his finishing in the eyes of Leverkusen coaching duo Sami Hyypiä and Sascha Lewandowski. "Stefan's enormously important to us, even when he doesn't score," says Lewandowski, who reserved special praise for the forward's ability to be "strong in the air, win the ball and keep possession."
Recognition has not been quite so forthcoming with the national team, though, where the six-time German international has long been waiting for further call-ups. Team-mate Lars Bender is one of many who feel that Kießling should be given further opportunities by Joachim Löw, telling bundesliga.com half in jest, "I'm sure he'd be in the squad if we had an international next week."
Ballack praises team's performances
Similarly, former club-mate and Hamburger SV goalkeeper Rene Adler, who last month was himself re-called to the national setup for the friendly against the Netherlands after a two-year break, expressed his hopes of Kießling being selected: "He can't do much more than find the back of the net week in, week out."
German footballing great Michael Ballack, who retired in the summer after two years with Leverkusen, was amongst the spectators during the convincing victory over Hamburg and was clearly impressed with what he witnessed. "Bayer play a very emphatic style of football and deserve to be in second place," declared the 98-time German international, "they look very confident and have their key players in great shape."
Schürrle scores jubilee goal
Andre Schürrle certainly falls in that category after a string of outstanding performances. Kießling's 22-year-old strike partner, like most of Leverkusen's players, had to endure a tough start to the season as Bayer took just four points from as many games, but now very much looks back on track. Schürrle's scored his fourth goal of the season on Saturday, the club's 1900th in its Bundesliga history, and his fifth in four games against HSV.
Despite Leverkusen having finished the first half of the season in second place, few are expecting the Rhineland club to improve on that position come the end of the campaign. "Bayern play in their own league this year", said Bender. Ballack, likewise, believes Bayern are too far ahead, saying their nine-point advantage would be "too large" a gap to bridge.
"Table is deceptive"
A number of second-place finishes in recent years have earned the club the nickname Vizekusen, but, after coming fifth last season, it appears most wouldn't mind adding to their reputation of being regular runner-ups this time around. "The table is deceptive, very few points separate the teams which means you can quickly fall back," warned Lewandowski. "We're well-advised to remain realistic and not become complacent. If we keep up the good work, we can finish in a really good position."
Markus Hoffmann reporting from Leverkusen