Leverkusen manager Jupp Heynckes has quite the task ahead of him if he has any chance of finishing 4th this season in the Bundesliga. Heynckes, who is known as ‘Osram’ by some in Germany, for the way his face goes red while under stress on the sidelines, will be looking to continue his success with Leverkusen this season. After joining in 2009, Heynckes immediately took Leverkusen from 9th in the league to an impressive 4th. Building on that success, however, will be a torrential task.
Goalkeeper Rene Adler is pivotal to Leverkusen success, and will be again this season. Many in Germany believed that if it were not for his injury just previous to World Cup 2010, he would have been Joachim Loew’s number one choice between the sticks for the national team. The young goalkeeper has been at Leverkusen since 2000, but broke into the first-team when he was just 22.
Captain Simon Rolfes will also be impossible to replace for Leverkusen this season. Due to being quite injury prone, Heynckes has secured the signature of Hanno Balitsch, who will act as backup for the captain. Many in Germany touted Rolfes as Ballack’s successor for World Cup 2010, but an injury ruled him out as well. His tackling ability and his positional sense as well as his leadership qualities will be critical in the spine of this Leverkusen side.
Enter Michael Ballack. Germany’s talismanic midfielder has completed a move from Chelsea back to Leverkusen where he began his senior career. Ballack’s presence beside Rolfes will be fantastic to see for Bundesliga fans this season, as the two will look to take control of games and dominate possession. Ballack will also be looking to impress at Leverkusen so that he can once again secure his place in Joachim Loew’s national team. With Sami Khedira doing so much to impress, it will be a lot harder than many first thought for Ballack to break his way back into the national team. But, if anyone can do it, he can.
While Leverkusen made a dramatic improvement on their standing last season by moving from a 9th-placed finish in 2008 to a 4th-placed finish in 2009, things may not be so smooth this term. Jupp Heynckes does have a wonderful squad at hand, but it still may not be good enough to beat off the likes of Schalke, Werder Bremen, Wolfsburg, Stuttgart and Hamburg for a top four spot. Securing Europa League qualification would be a great finish for Heynckes’ side, and a good DFB Pokal run will please the fans. Unfortunately, Leverkusen may have a much harder time this season than they did last time around.
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