After a tough midweek Europa League quarter-final which saw them through to the semis, RB Leipzig could have been forgiven for thinking Bayer Leverkusen were there for the taking on Sunday when the two sides met at the Bay Arena. They may have had tired legs following their midweek trip to Belgium, but Xabi Alonso’s side worked really hard to beat die Roten Bullen and maintained their position as the Bundesliga’s in-form side.
The Werkself (the company eleven) certainly put in quite the shift for the club on Sunday as they maintained their unbeaten run and pushed into the Bundesliga top six. Leipzig are one of Leverkusen immediate rivals at the top end of the season and the Saxon side may have been looking to take advantage of any tiredness in their Rhineland opponents, but no advantage was forthcoming and the hosts ran out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Adam Hlozek and Nadiem Amiri.
The fact that key playmaker Florian Wirtz went down with a stomach upset and Edmond Tapsoba was ruled out with a muscular problem may also have played into Marco Rose’s hands, but Xabi Alonso’s side pushed through and came out victorious to extend their unbeaten run to two months. Since losing to Mainz on matchday 21 Leverkusen have gone 13 matches without defeat in all competitions and have notched up six league wins and two draws.
Momentum is certainly with them. “Things are going extremely well for us at the moment”, defender Jonathan Tah said after the Leipzig win. “and we’re gathering more and more energy for the next games.”
Captain Lukas Hradecky concurred with Tah. “We worked very hard to win. The balance is better now after the difficult start to the season. The mentality in particular plays a major role. We are currently giving our all to see what it will be enough for in the end.”
While key full back Jeremie Frimpong also believes the team is the star in Bayer’s current impressive run. “It was a difficult game, but we gave everything today from goalkeeper to striker and it was worth it. It’s a great achievement with the unbeaten streak, it feels good. We stand together as a team game after game and give everything for each other. I think that’s crucial at the moment.”
As Germany’s sole representative left on European competition this season the Bundesliga run-in is going to be extra tough for the Werkself with a two-legged Europa League semi-final with Roma to deal with as well as the remaining five Bundesliga fixtures. They face Union Berlin away next weekend followed by a local derby with Köln. The first leg of their clash with the Giallorossi takes place in the Italian capital on May 9th.
There can be no easing off for Leverkusen, but on current form they will be looking eyeing a Champions spot next season- either via a top four finish, or by winning the Europa League as Eintracht Frankfurt did last season.