17:30 (BST); Sunday 24th September; BayArena (Leverkusen, Germany) BT Sport 2
Both sides will look to return to winning ways as they go head-to-head in the final match of Week 6.
Heiko Herrlich has had a baptism of fire in his first season in the big-time as his Bayer Leverkusen side have only a single win from their opening five fixtures a far cry from his performances in helping Jahn Regensburg to the 2. Bundesliga.
His opponents, Hamburg, started the season extremely well with two consecutive wins, but have fallen back down to earth with three defeats in a row.
Will Hamburg turn their fortunes around or will Bayer Leverkusen leapfrog their Week 6 opponents at the final whistle?
Last time out
Hertha Berlin 2-1 BAYER LEVERKUSEN
Bayer Leverkusen made the long journey across the country to take on Hertha Berlin, who are a strong force at home.
It was a less than ideal start for Bayer Leverkusen as they fell behind in the opening 15 minutes when Mathew Leckie beat Bernd Leno into the top left corner.
Proceedings got worse for Leverkusen and they trailed by two midway through the first half when Salomon Kalou headed home thanks to an excellent cross from Vedad Ibišević.
Julian Brandt scored a consolation goal five minutes before time, but it wasn’t enough as Leverkusen succumbed to their third defeat on the road.
HAMBURG 0-3 Borussia Dortmund
Hamburg returned home to face off against a Borussia Dortmund side who had neither lost nor conceded yet this season.
HSV struggled to assert themselves in the contest and they fell behind midway through the first half when Shinji Kagawa poked home the opener past Christian Mathenia.
Markus Gisdol’s side conceded a second in the second half when Andriy Yarmolenko found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang unmarked at the back post for the easy tap-in.
The scoring ended late in the second half when Christian Pulisic placed the ball off the post and into the back of the net to see Hamburg lose their third consecutive match.
Bayer Leverkusen Lineup
No injuries came from the last contest for Bayer Leverkusen, but what formation Heiko Herrlich utilises will be interesting.
We believe it will be a 4-4-2 with Lars Bender playing right back and Benjamin Henrichs remaining on the bench. I don’t expect to see any changes from Leverkusen.
Those who started played well but obviously the gulf in quality was too much for Hamburg to contain.
Douglas Santos came off the bench last time out, but I expect him to start at left back whilst Albin Ekdal was rested and should return with Gideon Jung dropping to the bench.
Key Battle: Kevin Volland vs Mergim Mavraj
Kevin Volland was the big money signing from Hoffenheim two seasons ago and its fair to say the 25-year-old hasn’t lived up to the expectations placed on a player of his quality.
To start the season, Volland once again struggled to find his feet, but his previous home fixture was a good one for the striker who netted a brace in a 4-0 win over Freiburg.
Volland was quiet last time out, however, with only two shots on goal, none of which hit the target.
Mergim Mavraj was very busy last time out and, in truth, the Albanian has plenty to make up for after missing two matches due to suspension.
The 31-year-old was decent against Dortmund, leading all Hamburg players in defensive actions with one interception, one blocked shot and six clearances.
Volland is slower than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and it’s imperative that Mavraj keeps the Leverkusen striker in check by making him shoot from distance.
The American international has struggled to find his feet this season as Hamburg have failed to test any goalkeeper.
Since the international break, Bobby Wood hasn’t had a shot on goal as André Hahn leads Hamburg with 12 shots on goal.
That’s a big issue especially as Wood leads the line. Perhaps a few more weeks of little influence will see Wood ride the pine.
Bayer Leverkusen have had plenty of possession this season with 56% of the ball. At home, they’ve looked solid in possession, with the likes of Karim Bellarabi creating the opportunities for Leverkusen this season.
It’s been obvious that Heiko Herrlich’s side likes to have plenty of possession and play the ball around, but can they create and punish Hamburg at home?
PREDICTION: Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Hamburg
On paper, Bayer Leverkusen should go in as favourites. Although they have only won once this season, they have looked better than the results suggest.
Hamburg are slowly falling off the wagon again, but a win in Leverkusen would very much ease the tension which will continue to build if they succumb to a fourth consecutive defeat.
I expect goals, but I believe Leverkusen will do enough to secure the points.
Can Bayer Leverkusen keep their unbeaten home run going or will Hamburg secure an unlikely result at the BayArena? Let us know in the comments section below.
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