bundesliga.com has the pre-match privy on everything you need to know ahead of the Saturday afternoon encounter…
The Werkself proved FC Bayern München aren’t the only side capable of breaking records in their 2-0 win in Dortmund last weekend. However, having sent out a message to the rest of the league, Bayer 04 now have to maintain their level of performance against their visitors from the capital, who themselves are looking to bounce back after throwing away a two-goal lead in their Matchday 1 draw with Werder Bremen.
Leverkusen’s style of play under Schmidt “robs you of strength, but everyone has proven that they have the desire and mindset to want to win matches”, according to star striker Stefan Kießling. Having played just three days prior in their UEFA Champions League play-off triumph over FC Kobenhavn, 47-year-old Schmidt may be tempted to rotate his side with only Lars Bender unavailable for selection due to a lack of fitness.
Jos Luhukay’s injury list has grown considerably since the opening weekend, after Sebastian Langkamp (ankle), Ronny (torn muscle) and Genki Haraguchi (shoulder), all of whom started against Bremen, were ruled out of contention. American international John Anthony Brooks is set to slot in alongside John Heitinga in central defence, while Jens Hegeler, formerly of Leverkusen, should assume one of the two midfield roles up for grabs.
Scoring nine times in the first four competitive fixtures could just be the beginning for Kießling, who boasts a record of four in his last three meetings with Hertha. The striker has benefitted most considerably from Schmidt’s fast-paced approach and, with Hakan Calhanoglu pulling the strings and dropping in the hole, Bayer’s blond-haired target man has been able to focus almost exclusively on what he does best - scoring goals.
Having featured for Leverkusen just 23 times, spending the majority of his stint with the club on loan at FC Augsburg, Hajime Hosogai could now hold the key to thwarting his former employers. During his time at the FCA helm, Luhukay used the 28-year-old to great effect in a man-marking role, famously neutralising Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa in a 0-0 draw. There’s no doubting the Japanese international can match his hosts in the stamina stakes, but he’ll also need to keep Calhanoglu quiet.
Julian Brandt: “Anything’s possible, but we know our strengths. We were optimistic before the start of the season and now we’re delighted to started so well."
Hajime Hosogai: “[Leverkusen] are a tricky opponent because they put you under a lot of pressure, but it doesn’t matter who we play. We’ve got to hold strong.”
Bayer come into Saturday’s encounter having won all four fixtures in the 2014/15 campaign, a string of results that has seen them reach the second round of the DFB Cup and the UEFA Champions League group stages, all whilst scoring 15 times and conceding just twice. Hertha, meanwhile, will be hoping Julian Schieber can add to his Matchday 1 brace, as they look to shore up their backline in the hopes of taking points home with them.
The Rhineland hosts have preserved an unbeaten record in their last six encounters with Berlin, yet three of the capital city sides total four wins in Leverkusen have come in their last seven trips to the BayArena. On a less positive note, head coach Luhukay has lost all four of his previous Bundesliga meetings with Bayer 04, including last season’s 2-1 reverse on Matchday 30, which came courtesy of goals from Kießling and Julian Brandt.
Bayer Leverkusen: Leno - Jedvaj, Toprak, Papadopoulos, Boenisch - Castro, Rolfes - Bellarabi, Son - Calhanoglu - Kießling
Hertha Berlin: Kraft - Pekarik, Heitinga, Brooks, Schulz - Niemeyer - Beerens, Hosogai, Hegeler, Ben-Hatira - Schieber