Bundesliga

What is Bayer Leverkusen's secret formula for success?

Perhaps it isn't surprising, given they were founded and are owned by a pharmaceutical company, that Bayer Leverkusen have stumbled upon the right formula this season.

1) Momentum

It's maybe not quite the miracle cure that Leverkusen fans hope will end their 113-year-long ache for a German league title, but Heiko Herrlich and his exciting side are at least soothing the pain of last season's 12th-placed finish.

bundesliga.com takes a look at the reasons behind Die Werkself's 11-game unbeaten run that has catapulted them into contention for a top-four finish.

Success breeds confidence, and vice versa, and Leverkusen have both right now. They step out onto the pitch with the belief that they are not going to lose, and in football, that can make a huge difference. It is all the more impressive given the fixture list handed them the most morale-sapping of starts: Bayern Munich. Away.

Watch: Bremen are beaten as Leverkusen make it 11 unbeaten

The performance, if not the 3-1 defeat, suggested better was to come, and after just a point from their first three matches, it did. The secret? "The humility of how we approached recent games. Work is always in the foreground, that's the basis for everything," explained Herrlich, who is not getting carried away, soberly adding after the Matchday 16 win over Werder Bremen: "The trend is going in the right direction."

- © gettyimages / Alex Grimm

2) Home strength

With its in-built four-star hotel and — by Bundesliga standards — unintimidating 30,000 capacity, the BayArena appears only slightly less inviting a place to visit than a pub on the banks of the Rhine.

The litmus test will come on Matchday 18 when Bayern attempt to storm Fortress Leverkusen, but Herrlich's men give the impression they have enough spine to stand up to the Bavarian ogre. "We proved that we can bring a 1-0 result home," said an impressed sporting director Rudi Völler after his side fended off Bremen. "We're very stable."

3) No me in team

What is most surprising about that new-found stability and consistency of performance is that it has been maintained despite Herrlich using 21 outfield players, that's two more than league leaders Bayern and one more than third-placed Leipzig, who have both had UEFA Champions League campaigns to deal with. Schalke boss Domenico Tedesco has been most frugal of all the top-four bosses, with just 18 different men pulling on the Royal Blue shirt.

Herrlich made a mockery of the adage of "never change a winning team" on Wednesday, shuffling his squad to make four changes against Bremen and yet was still rewarded with all three points. Julian Brandt and Kai Havertz dropped out, Karim Bellarabi and Lucas Alario stepped in: the former should have found the net, the latter did. Lars Bender needs a rest? No problem, Julian Baumgartlinger drops in and the heart of the side does not miss a beat. No fewer than 13 different players have scored for Leverkusen this season, more than any other club. Now THAT is a team effort!

4) Stand-out stars

As good as the entire cast has been, some individuals have still produced Oscar-winning performances. Leon Bailey would be among those with most red-carpet traction after hitting the ground running in his first full Bundesliga campaign at the sort of pace that would make even his friend Usain Bolt sweat. In addition to his four goals, the Jamaican rising star has five assists with a flurry of three in the last two games.

- © gettyimages / Dean Mouhtaropoulos

With Kevin Volland playing in the manner of Robert Lewandowski — leading the line, linking up with team-mates, helping them score and scoring himself — Bailey has flourished, and has quickly built a potentially devastating understanding with the former Hoffenheim forward as well as his fellow young cohorts Brandt and Havertz.

His efforts might have counted for nothing had Bernd Leno not produced "probably my best game ever" against Stuttgart with the Germany international goalkeeper showing his team's run has not only been about the goaltakers and makers.

Watch: Leon Bailey breaks down his stunning display in Stuttgart

5) H(R)H The King of Leverkusen

Herrlich's name was not at the top of many Leverkusen fans' wishlists when their club sought a full-time coaching appointment last summer. In truth, he probably wasn't even at the bottom of them. A CV that included spells in charge of Germany and Bayern's youth teams was hardly impressive, though back-to-back promotions that left Jahn Regensburg in Bundesliga 2 hinted the 1996/97 UEFA Champions League winner had untapped potential in the dug-out.