Leverkusen - Borussia Dortmund will all but secure runners-up spot in the Bundesliga if they beat fourth-placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen at the BayArena on Saturday evening (kick-off 16:30 GMT/18:30 CEST).
'The perfect game'
Jürgen Klopp’s side sealed their place in the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League group stage with victory over 1. FSV Mainz 05 last time out, and could extend their advantage over third-placed FC Schalke 04 to nine points ahead of their arch rivals’ clash with Borussia Mönchengladbach on Sunday. Leverkusen, meanwhile, are desperate to keep themselves in the driving seat for the fourth and final Champions League spot.
Since replacing Sami Hyypiä as head coach three weeks ago, Sascha Lewandowski has guided Leverkusen to victories in the league against Hertha Berlin and 1. FC Nürnberg. Die Werkself, who announced on Friday that Roger Schmidt will take over as head coach in the summer, are already guaranteed a place in next season’s UEFA Europe League, but Lewandowski is hoping to join Dortmund at Europe’s top table in 2014/15.
“We’ve managed to stop the rot and boost our confidence a little with those two wins,” said the Dortmund-born coach, who was in charge of the BayArena club alongside Hyypiä for the duration of the 2012/13 campaign. “We’re in the Europa League, but now we want more. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us against Borussia, but we want to focus all our efforts on doing as best we can. If you want to stop the likes of Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski, you have to play the perfect game.”
Sam could return
Lewandowski will be without defender Philipp Wollscheid, who is suffering from an ankle infection, while right-back Giulio Donati is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the campaign last weekend. Schalke-bound attacker Sidney Sam could feature after returning to training this week.
Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller is likely to start at the BayArena after missing last week’s victory over Mainz with a groin problem. Marcel Schmelzer has returned to first-team training following injury, but remains short of match fitness. Utility man Kevin Großkreutz is set to fill in at left-back in the absence of Schmelzer and 21-year-old Erik Durm, who picked up a muscle injury in training this week.
'A special match'
BVB’s place among Europe’s elite may already be in the bag, but Klopp insisted his players are focused on maintaining their current momentum after collecting 16 points from a possible 18 since losing to Gladbach on Matchday 25. “We certainly don’t feel like the season’s already over,” he said.
The 46-year-old knows an industrious performance is required if Dortmund are to overcome their North Rhine-Westphalia rivals. “It’s going to be a special match, as Leverkusen need a couple more wins to qualify for the Champions League,” he said. “Leverkusen will be putting everything into the game, and I expect us to do the same to show our fans that we’re still focused on finishing the season strongly.”
Leverkusen: Leno - Hilbert, Toprak, Spahic, Boenisch - L. Bender, Can - Brandt, Castro, Son - Kießling
Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Sokratis, Hummels, Großkreutz - Kirch, Sahin - Jojic, Reus, Mkhitaryan - Lewandowski
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