Leverkusen v Bayern Preview

German Bundesliga | Saturday 2 May | BayArena | 18:30




Bayern Munich enter gameweek 31 as Bundesliga champions after opening up an unassailable 15 point lead at the top of the table with four games still remaining. Bayern, who have picked up their third consecutive league title, were always going to triumph this season but Wolfsburg’s slip up on Sunday meant that the champagne bottles would be popped. This weekend sees them travel to fourth place Bayer Leverkusen to play their first league match as champions. Besides playing for pride, Bayern will be using the trip as preparation for their big UEFA Champions League semi-final clash against Barcelona next week. Their opponents should prove tough opposition as they gun down third spot that will see them gain automatic qualification for next seasons Champions League. The first round encounter between these sides was a tight affair with only Franck Ribery’s 51st minute strike proving the difference.


To Win (90mins)
Leverkusen 31/20
Draw 23/10
Bayern 7/4

BAYER LEVERKUSEN

Bayer Leverkusen lost third spot to Borussia Monchengladbach last weekend after failing to clinch three points in their local derby match against Cologne, drawing 1-1. The home side took the golden opportunity of upsetting their local rivals by throwing a spanner in the works of their hopes of qualifying directly for the Champions League group stage next season.

Leverkusen were on their way to another derby win against Cologne but the hosts managed a late goal to end Bayer’s seven game winning streak. It has been an incredible push for a Champions League place by Leverkusen who are unbeaten in their last nine games with their last league loss been suffered back in February at home to second place Wolfsburg by 5-4.

They will be without key defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos for the next three months and his absence will be sorely missed in such a crucial stage of the season. The 23-year-old needed an operation on Monday after dislocating his left shoulder against Cologne. The Greece international’s injury leaves them short on centre-backs after Bosnia and Herzegovina captain Emir Spahic was sacked by the club last month after assaulting a steward.

Leverkusen have no option but to go for maximum points against the champions as they lie two points behind a very consistent Monchengladbach side and losing this match could see them finishing fourth which means they will have to battle in a  two-legged play-off to reach Europe’s top domestic competition. They face a tough final four matches as they will be away to Gladbach after this match and then have to overcome a home fixture against seventh place Hoffenheim before ending the season with an away tie at mid-table Eintracht Frankfurt, who have lost just three home games from 15 at the time of writing.

Leverkusen play a modern 4-2-3-1 formation that has helped them score goals at will while also keep a respectable defensive record. Their stand out players this season has been the duo of Heung-Min Son and Karim Bellarabi who make up the attacking trio that play behind experienced striker Steffan Kiesling. It might take a bit of magic from 2014 Asian Footballer of the Year Son to unlock the best defence in the league.

With the rigours of last year's FIFA World Cup and the 2015 Asian Cup behind him, the South Korean has hit top form, scoring more goals in his last 10 games (six) than he managed during the entire first half of the season (five). Bellarabi has surprised many this year, following his loan spell at Eintracht Braunschweig last season. The 25-year old made his debut for the German national team in 2014, and has since gone on to appear for die Mannschaft on five occasions. The winger has also netted 11 Bundesliga goals which makes him Leverkusen’s joint top scorer with Son.



BAYERN MUNICH



Bayern Munich won their 25th German league title thanks to Wolfsburg's 1-0 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach. Pep Guardiola's side beat Hertha Berlin 1-0 on Saturday to put them within sight of the title.

Wolfsburg had to beat Gladbach to make Bayern wait another week to celebrate, but couldn’t even claim a point. Despite being plagued by injuries to key players throughout the season, Bayern showed nerves of steel as they dismantled every domestic opposition in the league. They took charge from the start as rivals Borussia Dortmund, last season's runners-up, imploded, with Wolfsburg emerging only briefly as title contenders before the gap to the top grew even more.

The Bavarians have lost just twice so far and conceded 13 goals in 30 matches, a record for this stage of the Bundesliga. They will have little time to celebrate this success as they face Dortmund in the last four of the domestic cup on Tuesday. Bayern are bidding for their third consecutive domestic double, and second treble in three years.

Pep Guardiola has now won five domestic titles in his six years as a manager; three out of four with Barcelona and two in two for Bayern. Bayern’s narrow win against Hertha was thanks to a late goal from Bastian Schweinsteiger. Guardiola rested several players who helped crush Porto 6-1 in midweek to advance to the last four of the Champions League. Treble-chasing Bayern had Schweinsteiger fit again and Spaniard Javi Martínez back on the bench for the first time since tearing knee ligaments last year but never hit top form against the battling Berliners.

Probable line-ups:

Leverkusen: 4-2-3-1
Leno; Hilbert, Toprak, Jedvaj, Wendell; Bender, Rolfes; Bellarabi, Calhanoglu, Son; Kiesling

Bayern Munich: 4-3-3
Neuer; Rafinha, Boateng, Dante, Bernat; Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Thiago; Muller, Gotze, Lewandowski

Betting Verdict: BAYERN 7/4 
With their trip to Spain against Barcelona coupled with their German Cup fixture against Dortmund prior to this match as well as the fact that they have no more interest in the league, for the first time this season Bayern aren’t priced up as favourites. Leverkusen have also done well against the champions in recent head-to-heads with Bayern managing only  five wins from the last 12 meetings, drawing five times. The giants had to win via a penalty shootout during their last meeting in the quarter-finals of the cup and also failed to overcome Leverkusen in this away fixture last season, drawing 1-1. However, Leverkusen will be forced to field a weaker defensive line and Bayern’s quality throughout their team gives confidence that 17/10 is too good a price to pass up for the treble-chasing Bavarians. 

Written by Wayde Dorkin for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!