Both at home and in Europe there has been precious little to cheer for Bayer 04 Leverkusen in recent weeks.
Likely needing a win against the holders FC Barcelona to stay in the UEFA Champions League, Die Werkself continue to toil on the home front as well, with Matchday 15’s 2-1 reverse at Hertha Berlin their sixth league defeat of the season and third in five games.
Schmidt: 'Hertha deserved it'
With just one victory from those five, Bayer have slipped to eighth in the standings and trail league leaders FC Bayern München by a hefty 19 points. The gap to fourth-placed Hertha is much less – – but with almost half the season played, Leverkusen are yet to put together a consistent run of form and concern is slowly building that a return to the Champions League will elude them come the end of the season.
Their latest defeat at the Olympiastadion could in part be put down to an early red card shown to Sebastian Boenisch, but head coach Roger Schmidt admitted post-match that Leverkusen could have no complaints about losing. “We didn’t start the game at all well and weren’t prepared for Hertha’s aggression,” he surmised.
Chicharito streak continues
That his team stood a chance of taking something from the game was down to their Mr. Reliable in front of goal, Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez, who proved his undoubted class once more with another expertly-taken finish after some clever movement. But for the concession of a headed goal from a corner, the Mexican's effort may have salvaged his side a point from the game.
Despite their current malaise, then, Schmidt can at least take comfort in Chicharito’s flame shining brightly with each passing game. The former Manchester United FC man has now scored six of Leverkusen’s nine Bundesliga goals and 11 goals in his last ten matches. Incidentally, that figure is also higher than Manchester United – his former club – have managed in total in their ten matches since the beginning of October.
Making hay before winter
As well as the small matter of next Wednesday's game with Barcelona, two games remain before German football’s winter break commences on Monday 21 December: at home to third-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach and away at the miserly FC Ingolstadt 04, who have the division's second-tightest defence.
Chicharito can be expected to keep up his excellent form, but what Schmidt now needs is for his team to ensure that the 27-year-old's goals do not go to waste.