20:45 (CEST); Friday 11th August; Wildparkstadion (Karlsruhe, Germany)
It’s the first major test for Bayer Leverkusen and for fans of Der Werkself as we finally get a good look at the team under new manager Heiko Herrlich, whilst their opponents are four games into their season in the third tier, with mixed results.
The significance is not lost on Leverkusen, who would love to start the Herrlich era with a win. But like many before, will Bayer succumb to first round jitters and crumble under the Friday night lights?
For Karlsruher, this could be the perfect way to ignite their season as they look to gain promotion back to the second division.
Last Time Out
Karlsruher SC 2-1 Wehen Wiesbaden (3. Liga)
Karlsruher entered their week four match-up against Wehen Wiesbaden on the back of a three-match winless run. The hosts looked the better of the two sides, but Wiesbaden took the lead before the half when Alf Mintzel tapped in from close range.
As the rain cleared and the sun rose, so did Karlsruher, who levelled the scores after the break thanks to a wonder goal from Anton Fink. The forward latched onto a pinpoint cross by Marc Lorenz for his third of the campaign.
Karlsruher went on to take all three points as with seven minutes remaining on the clock, captain Kai Bülow headed home another perfect delivery from Lorenz.
Bayer Leverkusen 3-3 Celta Vigo (Friendly)
It was an entertaining encounter in Bayer Leverkusen’s final pre-season run out against La Liga side Celta Vigo. John Guidetti opened the scoring in the first half with a thunderbolt shot which rattled the crossbar before doubling his and Celta’s advantage after the interval.
Leverkusen responded with three goals of their own thanks to Admir Mehmedi, Joel Pohjanpalo and Kevin Volland, as the hosts looked to seal their first win in pre-season.
However, the hosts couldn’t hold their nerve as Maximiliano Gomez levelled the scores and the teams shared the spoils.
Karlsruher SC Lineup
Manager Marc-Patrick Meister almost has an entire squad to select from for their first round match-up with Bayer Leverkusen.
They will be without centre-back Daniel Gordon, who has a four-match suspension carried over from his previous season with Sandhausen. Martin Stoll is favourite to take his place.
Boubacar Barry is still out with a knee injury and will likely miss this game. Meister will probably use a 4-4-2 formation for this match
Bayer Leverkusen Lineup
Plenty of injuries for Heiko Herrlich’s side and it will be interesting to see which direction he goes when selecting the starting XI. Jonathan Tah, Sven Bender and Benjamin Henrichs are all doubts, but rest assured if they are fit, they will form three of the back four for Leverkusen.
Julian Brandt is slowly getting up to speed and could find himself on the bench with Kai Havertz playing on the left of midfield. Admir Mehmedi and Kevin Volland have been the favoured pair up front during pre-season.
Key Battle: Anton Fink vs Jonathan Tah
Karlsruher will need their main man to be firing if they are to have any chance of causing an upset against Bayer Leverkusen. We have Anton Fink matched up against former Germany international Jonathan Tah.
Fink has been in fine goal-scoring form in 3. Liga with three goals in four appearances since joining from fellow third tier side Chemnitzer FC during the summer. His best effort came last weekend in their 2-1 win against Wehen Wiesbaden.
Tah had himself a poor season last time out and under new management, the 21-year-old will be looking to impress and hold a regular spot in the first team.
However, for a big and strong looking defender, Tah was anything but, easily out-muscled by lesser players stature-wise. Last campaign, Tah led the Bundesliga in errors last season with five, of which two led to goals.
Rising to the occasion
It’s a great opportunity for Karlsruher to get some exposure as a club as they take on what was a former Champions League regular. Clubs in the third tier generally don’t garner much attention, but on this very occasion, Karlsruher can send one of the big boys home.
More than 10,000 fans are expected at the Wildparkstadion under the lights on Friday night. Manager Meister will need to get his team settled early if they are to achieve an unlikely scalp.
Last season, Leverkusen were riddled with errors and on many occasions it led to them conceding. Main culprits where the aforementioned Tah and goalkeeper Bernd Leno, who enters this season under pressure to perform.
Karlsruher will be opportunistic and if Leverkusen provide the errors, be assured that Leno will be a busy man between the sticks.
PREDICTION: Karlsruher SC 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Bayer Leverkusen enter as favourites and should find themselves through to the next round of the DFB Pokal. This game has cagey written all over it and Karlsruher’s only chances of succeeding rest on a tentative and error-prone Leverkusen side, who are trying not to create their own problems.
We could see an upset, but its really difficult to surpass the gulf in quality on display and one goal should be enough for Leverkusen.
Who do you think will win between Karlsruher SC and Bayer Leverkusen? Let us know in the comments section below.
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