Leverkusen - After failing to score in either of their last two matches on home soil, Bayer 04 Leverkusen will be looking to rediscover their shooting boots at the BayArena when they host local rivals 1. FC Köln on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 14:30 GMT / 15:30 CET).
bundesliga.com looks ahead to the 55th top-flight encounter between the two Rhineland neighbours…
A home victory - something Heung-Min Son (pictured) and Co. have failed to achieve since beating FC Schalke 04 1-0 at the end of October, would consolidate Bayer’s position in the top four, while Köln are still only four points above the bottom three. The Billy Goats have, however, won their last two league games on the road.
Guilio Donati (pictured) has been ruled out with a shoulder injury, while Ömer Toprak (knee), Lars Bender (stomach muscle) and Son (dead leg) are all rated as doutful. Greek international defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos (shoulder) and midfielder Stefan Reinartz (fractured eye socket) are still working on their fitness following long-term injuries.
Peter Stöger must make do without the services of Kaziki Nagasawa (infection), Marcel Risse (knee), Lucas Cueto (ankle), Patrick Helmes (hip) and Simon Zoller (thigh) for the short trip north. Matchday 11 Player of the Week Pawel Olkowski may start at right-back, meaning Stöger could deploy Daniel Halfar or Slawomir Peszko in a more attacking role.
Mainz custodian Loris Karius’ display at the BayArena three weeks ago won’t have gone unnoticed by Köln keeper Timo Horn, who will be hoping to produce a similar showing between the sticks on Matchday 13. The longer Leverkusen go without scoring, the more nervous the team - and indeed their fans - will become.
Roger Schmidt (pictured, Leverkusen coach): “The defeat to Monaco was a costly one, both emotionally and physically.”
Peter Stöger (Köln coach): “We’re playing a very strong, attacking team with fast and technically-gifted players, but we don’t want to sit back for 90 minutes.”
Fourth-placed Leverkusen have been plagued by inconsistency in recent weeks, having won two, lost two and drawn one of their five most recent encounters in all competitions. The Billy Goats’ form has been , but no team has picked up more points on the road than Köln (ten) this season.
Leverkusen have won 20 of the two sides’ 54 meetings to date, with Köln prevailing on 13 occasions (21 draws). Their most recent meeting at the BayArena in 2011/12 ended in a 4-1 victory for the visitors, but die Werkself gained revenge at the RheinEnergieStadion later that season, winning 2-0.
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Leverkusen: Leno - Hilbert, Spahic, Jedvaj, Wendell - Rolfes, Castro - Bellarabi, Calhanoglu, Öztunali - Kießling
1. FC Köln: Horn - Olkowski, Mavraj, Wimmer, Hector - Lehmann, Matuschyk, Vogt - Halfar, Ujah, Svento
Take a look at a sublime moment of skill from Leverkusen's Karim Bellarabi last week, courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: