In our preview we spoke to Timo Schwarz, who tries to find an explanation for the current crisis in Leverkusen. We are also taking a closer look towards the game on Saturday.
Hello, let’s talk about you first. Please introduce yourself to our readers and tells us about your connection to Bayer Leverkusen.
Hi! My name is Timo Schwarz, I am 17 years old and currently taking my A-Levels in Osnabrück. Up until the World Cup in 2006 I had no connection to football whatsoever. Then I saw Bernd Schneider playing for Germany. He fascinated me, even though, looking back you will recognize that he played below his average in the tournament. That is how I got into football. From this point on I supported Bayer Leverkusen passionately, causing a lot of suffering, from time to time. I also run a blog by the name b04blog, which by the way is also my Twitter handle.
Your start into the season was, as you may say, “below average” as well. What went wrong there?
From my point of view the problem is the club does not learn from mistakes and that is the case in all areas. Just a few weeks ago, I thought that Roger Schmidt has finally managed to control himself during the games, but we all know what happened. In addition to hat, it is just a matter of time until Rudi Völler has his next outburst in an interview after the game. The main problem though, is the lack of development regarding the football the team plays. We are in the third year with Roger Schmidt and no main player has left us. Expectations were high starting into the season, but as you can see the same problems occur over and over again. Especially set-pieces in offence and defence, as well as the defence as a whole is lacking in stability.
Many teams know how to play successfully against Bayer 04. We have severe problems when coming up against teams focusing on defensive stability. It seems like the tactic approach is only focused on solving the problems when they appear, instead of improving the system as a whole.
We had some injuries as well, which may count as an excuse for losses against top teams, but what about the losses against Lotte, Bremen and Augsburg?
You already mentioned that expectations were high at the beginning of the season. Some experts even thought that Leverkusen could take advantage of the big changes in Dortmund and Munich. Are there any doubts regarding Roger Schmidt, yet?
Yes there are! Since the season started, they grew on me as well. Reaching the best performance-level with this team might be impossible with Schmidt. However, there are some points in his favour. For example, there is the development of our youth players, as well as the qualification for the Champions League for the past few years. Even the system, as much criticism as there is, sometimes works perfectly.
Currently we are getting regular Champions League football in Leverkusen, sacking the coach is not an option. And that is a good thing.
Let’s put all of the troubles aside. Why is Leverkusen still a top team in the Bundesliga? What is so special about them?
We can be special – in particular games. The wins against Dortmund and Tottenham were no flukes. There is no doubt that all the requirements are at hand to play like an international top team.
To count Leverkusen as a top-tear-team regularly, the consistency is way off. Before the current season I thought that we might be able to perform frequently on that level and bad games were only the exceptions. Right now, I think I was wrong and it is the other way round.
What you reckon are Schmidt’s plans for Saturday?
The formation will be 4-2-2-2 like always and without any special changes in the line-up. Lars Bender and Stefan Kießling are likely to miss out, but won’t even be options as starters, when completely healthy.
If Xabi Alonso is playing he will be the main target of our pressure. We also might play a bit more defensive than in previous years. Without possession the system transforms into a 4-4-2, the wingers will close down the half spaces and the full-backs are attacking higher up the field to outnumber the opponent in midfield. If we don’t want to leave empty handed, the spaces between our defenders are crucial. A backline with Henrichs, Tah, Toprak and Wendell, who are well practised together, is likely to be starting on Saturday.
To be honest, if you are not able to be successful in Munich right now, I don’t know when there will be another time. How high do you rate your chances and what sort of a game are you expecting?
I think FC Bayern is still the unanimous favourite besides all problems they currently have. I am sure the game will display that quite well in form of possession and goal scoring opportunities, but maybe not goal scoring-wise. If the defensive stability is on point and we are able to play determined, it might be possible to take points home. FC Bayern is way more vulnerable this season.
Can you give us your score prediction?
Both players on a drought period (Müller and Chicharito) will score. 1-1.
If I could choose a player of Bayer 04 to play for FC Bayern, it would be Julian Brandt. Now it is your turn, which Bayern player would it be and why?
Robert Lewandowski. He might be your best player overall. He is incredible and always dangerous. Shooting, heading, his physique and creativity. Just a complete player and most likely an instant improvement to the squad.
You may be surprised but I also would like to see Julian Brandt playing in another team. But there is still a lot of time for that.