Bayern Munich come up against one of their biggest rivals for the Bundesliga title this season on Saturday, according to coach Pep Guardiola. Bayern host Bayer Leverkusen at the Allianz Arena, with both having made perfect starts to the season.
“Bayer are big rivals for the Bundesliga title,” Guardiola said at a press conference on Friday. “Leverkusen are unique opponents.”
Leverkusen also saw off the challenge of Lazio to qualify for the Champions League, with Guardiola particularly impressed with how Roger Schmidt’s men are currently performing.
“They don’t give you any time to consider,” Guardiola explained. “We’re going to have to let the ball do more running than our legs.
“They are a special team, very intense. (Hakan Calhanoglu) takes some very dangerous free kicks, so we’ve got to prevent those situations.”
Guardiola may have problems trying to stop the attack of Calhanoglu, Karim Bellarabi and Stefan Kiessling considering his first-choice central defensive partnership is absent.
“Without (the injured Medhi) Benatia and (the suspended Jerome) Boateng, of course it’s no easier,” Guardiola said.
“When you have fewer players, you have fewer options, but if you want to win the Bundesliga then you need to get three points against Leverkusen.”
Xabi Alonso, David Alaba, Dante and Rafinha were the candidates Guardiola named to fill in at the center of his defense, while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who has been linked with a move to Saturday’s opponents, could also feature, having been named in Guardiola’s squad.
Midfielder Kevin Kampl could make his debut for Leverkusen after arriving from Borussia Dortmund on Friday.
“It depends on whether we get his registration through in time,” said coach Roger Schmidt.
“Otherwise I’m pretty sure he won’t need long to settle in. He knows the way we play, which is why signing him was the best option for us.”
Leverkusen were on Thursday drawn against Barcelona and Roma in the Champions League, but before they can dream of measuring themselves against two of Europe’s best clubs, they come up against the mother of all German clubs.
“They are the best of the best,” Schmidt said. “There is no bigger challenge than facing Bayern in the Bundesliga.
“But if we take our chances and make the right decisions going forward, then we can be a match for them.”
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