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Bundesliga: Can Bayer Leverkusen knock Bayern Munich from the top into the top two?

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It is quite common around this time of year to find anyone other than Bayern Munich at the top – or at least at the top – of the Bundesliga table.

There is usually someone who really takes off and generates a strong feel-good factor.

What normally happens then is Bayern ruthlessly and relentlessly chasing through the winter months, steaming past them and winning the competition at a gallop.

Bayer Leverkusen is the last to try to resist the inevitable.

Florian Wirtz celebrates scoring one of his six goals for Bayer Leverkusen so far this season

Wirtz, just 18, is already tipped as a star for Germany and is in demand all over Europe

Wirtz, just 18, is already tipped as a star for Germany and is in demand all over Europe

Bayern surprisingly lost to Eintracht Frankfurt last time in their first loss of the season

Bayern surprisingly lost to Eintracht Frankfurt last time in their first loss of the season

Having played seven games, they are level with Bayern by 16 points at the top of the Bundesliga, trailing only on goal difference, and are hoping to beat the champions if they host this Sunday.

It was a very positive start at the BayArena for coach Gerardo Seoane, brought in from Swiss club Young Boys after three consecutive title wins.

The disappointment of last season, when Leverkusen lived up to their ‘Neverkusen’ moniker by dropping out of the top four they had occupied for much of the campaign to eventually finish sixth.

With 18-year-old prodigy Florian Wirtz dazzling us with his creativity and scoring ability, striker Patrik Schick blasting in the goals and a pretty watertight defence, Leverkusen is at its peak.

Now they face the ultimate test against a Bayern side who lost their first game under Julian Nagelsmann at home to Eintracht Frankfurt just before the international break.

Sunday's game sees the top two in the Bundesliga meet as Leverkusen hosts Bayern Munich

Sunday’s game sees the top two in the Bundesliga meet as Leverkusen hosts Bayern Munich

Robert Lewandowski continued his record-breaking goals with 13 goals so far

Robert Lewandowski continued his record-breaking goals with 13 goals so far

Czech attacker Patrik Schik van Leverkusen also started the season well with six league goals

Czech attacker Patrik Schik van Leverkusen also started the season well with six league goals

Short look

BAYER LIVER CUSHION vs BAYERN MNCHEN

Sunday, 2.30pm kick-off UK time

Live on Sky Sports Football

Probable Lineups

Bayer Leverkusen: Hradecky (c) – Frimpong, Kossounou, Tah, Bakker – Aranguiz, Demirbay – Bellarabi, Wirtz, Diaby – Schick

Bayern Munich: Neuer (c) – Sule, Upamecano, Hernandez, Davies – Kimmich, Goretzka – Gnabry, Müller, Sane – Lewandowski

That result caused a minor sensation, as Bayern had not lost in almost two years in the competition, a run of 30 games, and Frankfurt hadn’t won there since 2000.

It also came just as Nagelsmann’s team was beginning to take that forebodingly ruthless form that everyone hoped the latest managerial change would disrupt.

But as Robert Lewandowski has already scored up to 13 goals in 10 games this season, and apparently hasn’t missed a beat from his record-breaking performance in the last campaign, Bayern have little cause for concern.

Leroy Sane, Thomas Muller and Joshua Kimmich in particular deliver not only assists but also goals, while £38million summer signing Dayot Upamecano looks perfect in defence.

So the defeat in Frankfurt was probably just a bump in the road and Nagelsmann’s tactical brain must have agonized over it for a fortnight. But if you also lose to Leverkusen, things can get interesting.

Among the usual suspects Lewandowski and Erling Haaland at the top of the Bundesliga leaderboards is Czech striker Schick.

He was the joint top scorer of Euro 2020 along with Cristiano Ronaldo and has taken over that form in the new season.

Schik has scored against Borussia Mönchengladbach, Augsburg, Borussia Dortmund, Stuttgart and Arminia Bielefeld (twice) and is well on track to surpass his 13 goals in 2020/21.

Julian Nagelsmann has had a fortnight to reflect on Eintracht Frankfurt's shock loss

Julian Nagelsmann has had a fortnight to reflect on Eintracht Frankfurt’s shock loss

Gerardo Seoane has made a very positive start as Bayer Leverkusen's new manager

Gerardo Seoane has made a very positive start as Bayer Leverkusen’s new manager

There were genuine concerns that Leverkusen would be significantly weakened by Leon Bailey’s £30million sale to Aston Villa.

But the 15 goals and 11 assists the blazing-fast Jamaican delivered last season could easily be offset by teenager Wirtz, whose stock continues to rise by the week.

Wirtz claimed his first goal for Germany in their World Cup qualifier win over North Macedonia earlier this week and it’s probably only a matter of time before Hansi Flick gives him a first start.

For Leverkusen, four Bundesliga goals and five assists have underlined his talent so far. Wirtz has also scored in Europa League wins over Ferencvaros and Celtic, putting Leverkusen in early command of Group G.

Wirtz is the youngest player to have scored 10 Bundesliga goals and his excellent rapport with Schick and Leverkusen’s French winger Moussa Diaby has helped explain their success this season.

Wirtz has already made four appearances for Germany and is being tipped as a star of the future

Wirtz has already made four appearances for Germany and is being tipped as a star of the future

Adept at getting behind opposition defences, Wirtz fires at home against Stuttgart

Adept at getting behind opposition defences, Wirtz fires at home against Stuttgart

Bundesliga top scorers

7 – Erling Haaland (Dortmund); Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

6 – Patrick Schick (Leverkusen)

5 – Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin)

4 – Florian Wirtz (Leverkusen), Moussa Diaby (Leverkusen), Christopher Nkunku (Leipzig), Anthony Modeste (Cologne)

He is adept at drifting between the opponent’s lines, small give-and-go moves and always thinks of the next forward move before receiving the ball.

Inevitably, Wirtz will be described as the ‘next Kai Havertz’, who also came through at Leverkusen, and there is already interest from Liverpool, Chelsea, the two Manchester clubs and (inevitably) Bayern Munich.

If Germany somehow manage to capitalize on Wirtz and Bayern’s Jamal Musiala, also 18, they could be a world-class midfielder for years to come.

Musiala scored his first goal for Germany in North Macedonia and has started the season well at Bayern, even if he is largely limited to sub appearances for now.

He could be the player Nagelsmann is turning to if Bayern struggle to beat Leverkusen this Sunday.

It promises to be an exciting match and control over the midfield to launch counters will be crucial. Bayern could use Kimmich or Leon Goretzka to shadow Wirtz and limit his influence.

We can even see something akin to the ding-dong thriller with seven goals between Leverkusen and Dortmund in September. The 4-3 defeat is Leverkusen’s only defeat of the season so far and came after they led three times.

If Leverkusen wins on Sunday, hopes grow that someone other than Bayern can win the league for the first time in a decade. But if Bayern take the points, it seems to be more of the same.

Nagelsmann could turn to 18-year-old Jamal Musiala if Bayern struggle to spark on Sunday

Nagelsmann could turn to 18-year-old Jamal Musiala if Bayern struggle to spark on Sunday

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