Leverkusen out to down high-flying Bayern
Bayern Munich earned the plaudits with their impressive Champions League mid-week win at Manchester City, but Bayer Leverkusen are out to end their unbeaten Bundesliga run on Saturday.
Bayern travel to Leverkusen top of Group D in the Champions League and second in the German league on goal difference with leaders Borussia Dortmund, but level on 19 points after seven matches.
Leverkusen are just a point behind in third and eager to claim the scalp of Pep Guardiola's Bayern, who are on a 32-match unbeaten league run.
"I don't think Bayern are unbeatable. On a good day we can do it," said Leverkusen striker Stefan Kiessling, the Bundesliga's top scorer last season.
Bayer were the last team to beat Bayern in the Bundesliga, on October 28 last year, when they stunned Munich with a 2-1 home win.
It was Bayern's only league defeat last season, but with Guardiola's European champions fresh from their impressive 3-1 win at City's Etihad Stadium, Sami Hyypia-coached Leverkusen need to show some confidence.
"This is our chance to make a real statement," added Kiessling after Bayer's 2-1 Champions League home win against Real Sociedad on Wednesday.
"We go into this game wanting to win it."
Bayern are closing in on the Bundesliga's record of 36 matches unbeaten -- set by Hamburg in 1983 -- and Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno said respect, not fear, must be the order of the day.
"Bayern are the best team in the world, but many people forget that we can also play good football," said Leno with Leverkusen having won nine of their 11 matches this season.
"We have a huge opportunity to make a name for ourselves."
While Guardiola insisted "it's not the end, it wasn't the final," in a bid to dampen expectations after Bayern's win in Manchester, the way president Uli Hoeness waxed lyrical would lead impartial fans to think the result in Leverkusen is academic.
"It was 'summa cum laude'," he enthused, using the Latin expression for work of the highest standard.
"Last season, we had a great team, but now we have a super, super team," he added in a playful reference to his penchant for the word 'super' in post match-interviews.
But as Dutch winger Arjen Robben, who has scored in Bayern's last five Champions League matches, insisted: "On Saturday, we start again at zero" at Leverkusen.
Dortmund are at mid-table Borussia Moenchengladbach eager to go into the international break at the top of the table.
Borussia posted an impressive Champions League win of their own as they floored Marseille 3-0 on Tuesday, but goals are almost guaranteed in Moenchengladbach.
None of their last 32 meetings, dating back to 1994, have ended in a goalless draw and Jurgen Klopp's Dortmund are already averaging three goals per Bundesliga match this season.
Fresh from their Champions League win at Swiss champions FC Basel, Schalke 04 are at mid-table Augsburg on Saturday without Peru winger Jefferson Farfan, who is out for four weeks with a torn groin.
Ex-Holland coach Bert van Marwijk, who took charge last week, continues his quest to get Hamburg out of the bottom three at Nuremberg on Sunday with the Hanseatic side having already leaked 19 goals this season.
Hanover 96 v Hertha Berlin
Schalke 04 v Augsburg, Borussia Moenchengladbach v Borussia Dortmund, VfB Stuttgart v Werder Bremen, VfL Wolfsburg v Eintracht Braunschweig, Mainz 05 v Hoffenheim, Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Bayern Munich
Nuremberg v Hamburg, Freiburg v Eintracht Frankfurt
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