Cologne - Bayer 04 Leverkusen are well-placed to make the group phase of the UEFA Champions League on the back of their 3-2 victory in the first leg of the final round qualifying at FC Kobenhavn on Tuesday. Should the Werkself progress as expected, their fans will be hoping that the early opening goal in the Danish capital was just a taste of things to come from their new frontline partnership.
With five minutes on the clock, Hakan Calhanoglu found Stefan Kießling inside the box and Bayer's old reliable duly fired the Bundesliga outfit in front. Calhanoglu, signed this summer from Hamburger SV, also later laid on what proved to be the match-winner for Heung-Min Son after the hosts had temporarily the contest around.
“We played pretty well and we'll be even better in the second leg,” Bayer's new number ten said after the match, while for his part Kießling noted that, “I've already got a good understanding with Hakan. We're combining well up front.”
The 30-year-old striker has certainly found his shooting boots early this season, having also chipped in with five goals in last weekend's at amateur outfit SV Alemannia Waldalgesheim. The knockout tournament is one that Kießling views as being right up Bayer's street. “I think we can go a long way in the cup above all,” he said. “We reached the final a few years ago and it was fantastic. I'd like to get there again.”
'We can mix it up with Bayern and BVB'
As far as the Bundesliga goes, the 2012/13 recipient of the top scorer's cannon is no less confident given that, “we've got a stronger squad than last season. And also, unlike in the past few years, where we always had tow or three players missing, we've got everyone fit this time.” Whether that will be enough to take Leverkusen to their first Bundesliga title is a slightly different matter, though.
“Obviously we've invested heavily but to win the league we're going to have to put in 34 top-drawer shifts, and hope that FC Bayern and Dortmund slip up as well.” For Kießling's new colleague Calhanoglu, the ultimate prize is by no means beyond the team's grasp. “For me, Leverkusen are almost up there on a par with Bayern München,” the 20-year-old Turkey international reckons. “We can mix it up with Bayern, Dortmund and Schalke as well.”