Berlin (AFP) – Florian Wirtz will be sidelined for “several months” after the teenage Germany midfielder suffered a serious knee injury Sunday as Bayer Leverkusen lost 1-0 at home to Cologne in the Rhine derby.

Wirtz, 18, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a first-half challenge and was stretchered off in clear distress.

The attacking midfielder “will therefore be out for several months”, Leverkusen said in a statement after giving the diagnosis.

He will miss Germany’s friendlies against Israel and the Netherlands later this month and faces a race against time to be fit for the World Cup in Qatar which kicks off in November.

Wirtz’s injury capped a bad day for Leverkusen as Cologne’s Kingsley Schindler came off the bench to volley in a superb second-half winner for his first Bundesliga goal.

The loss of Wirtz is a serious blow to Leverkusen with their top-scoring Czech striker Patrik Schick already sidelined by a torn calf.

Leverkusen are third in Germany’s top flight, 15 points behind league leaders Bayern Munich who were held to a 1-1 draw at Hoffenheim on Saturday.

This is Leverkusen’s second straight defeat after losing to Atalanta in their Europa League last 16, first-leg tie on Thursday. 

Cologne are seventh in the table as Steffen Baumgart’s visitors out-thought and out-muscled Leverkusen.

The hosts lost three players in the first half of a bruising derby.

Leverkusen’s Dutch defender Jeremie Frimpong had to be helped off with a leg injury after a crunching tackle before Wirtz left on a stretcher.  

Leverkusen centre-back Odilon Kossounou also went off injured just before half-time.