Munich - Neck and neck on 23 goals each with just two rounds of Bundesliga fixtures to play, Borussia Dortmund’s and Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s are making this season’s battle to be to crowned top goalscorer one of the fiercest in recent memory.
Lewandowski led his rival by three goals after Matchday 29, but the ever-reliable Kießling is now back in contention having scored seven in his last six outings. The latter, it would seem, has the momentum to finish the race out in front, but not many would bet against a late burst from the Polish goal machine.
Lewandowski’s 23 strikes make up almost 30 per cent of Dortmund’s total in the league this season, but he has also fired off more shots than any of his colleagues with 96, 15 more than the next in line, . In a fluid BVB attack, he is the unequivocal focal point, at the end of every move.
Kießling is just as essential to Bayer, perhaps even more so in relative terms. He has attempted the most shots (116, shared with ) and headers at goal (51), but, most importantly, his 23 scored so far account for just under 38 per cent of Leverkusen’s overall tally. Bayer rely on him to a colossal degree and it’s safe to say they would be a long way short of the UEFA Champions League places without his contribution.
Examining the type of goals they have scored further confirms the two players’ status as the Bundesliga’s top two forwards this season. Lewandowski has scored 11 times with his right foot, seven with his left and three with his head. He has netted a brace in five separate matches too, but perhaps most impressively, he struck at least once in 12 consecutive Bundesliga games from Matchday 17 to 28, overhauling Timo Konietzska’s long-standing club record of seven.
Kießling is similarly ambidextrous. Eight of the 29-year-old’s efforts have come on his right side, four on his left and a league-high seven with his head. He has opened the scoring in as many as 11 matches this season and, in keeping his Polish competitor, has also set some of his own personal milestones. On Matchday 21 Kießling netted his 100th Bundesliga strike in the draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach and, as of last week, he holds the record for goals scored by a Leverkusen player in a single Bundesliga season, besting Ulf Kirsten’s total of 22 set in 1997/98 and 1998/99.
As clinical as the pair are in front of goal, what really sets them apart from other strikers is their readiness to fight for the team. Dortmund’s No9 Lewandowski has covered an average of 9.8 km per game this season, the second furthest in the team, drawing 60 free-kicks to boot. With or without the ball, he puts in the hard yards – little wonder, then, that he always seems to find himself in goalscoring positions. He simply never stops moving.
The very same can be said of his competitor. Kießling has won more free-kicks (105) than any of his Bayer colleagues, covering an average of 10.8 km in each of his 32 games. Only Lars Bender, the engine room of the Werkself midfield can boast better stats in that category. And on the topic of stamina it should be added that Kießling has not missed a league game since 11 December 2010 as he approaches the end of his tenth Bundesliga season.
The final two matchdays of the Bundesliga season are sure to present both strikers with opportunities to steal a march on the other, but whoever comes out on top, one thing is for sure – both would fully deserve to follow in the footsteps of such legendary predecessors as Uwe Seeler, Gerd Müller and Klaus Fischer in being crowned the Bundesliga's best goalgetter.