Leverkusen vs Zürich – Thursday, November 8, 20:00GMT/21:00CET – BayArena, Leverkusen, Germany
It has been an up and down for Bayer Leverkusen in recent weeks. Undefeated in the Europa League before the reverse fixture against Zürich Bayer’s Bundesliga form finally spilt over into the Europa League as die Werkself lost 3-2.
That result meant even more pressure for Bayer head coach Heiko Herrlich. Ahead of the match, it emerged that Leverkusen had been in contact with former RB Leipzig head coach Ralph Hasenhüttl – luckily for Herrlich Hasenhüttl seems to be unavailable at the moment.
Nonetheless, the Zürich result was bad news for the head coach. But his side responded well to the pressure sensationally beating Werder Bremen 6-2 and then dismantling Gladbach 5-0 in the small Rheinderby.
Bayer had scored 11 goals in two games and seemed to be finally on track. That was until this weekend when die Werkself faced Hoffenheim. Hoffenheim head coach Julian Nagelsmann outcoached Herrlich in Bayer’s 4-1 defeat.
“We are now stuck in midfield of the table,” sporting director Rudi Völler said after the match. “It is and will remain a difficult season,” captain Lars Bender added. The result against Hoffenheim suggests that the two previous games, although showing Bayer’s potential, were meaningless and that Herrlich simply might not be capable of steading the ship in the long-term.
All of that is potentially good news for Zürich. Der FCZ, however, have also been inconsistent since the Europa League meeting. The victory over Bayer was followed up with a 3-2 defeat to FC St.Gallen, a 2-3 victory over Red Star Zürich in the Helvetia Cup and, finally, a 5-2 victory over FC Luzern. As a result, FC Zürich are now third in the Swiss Super League standings three points behind Basel and 14 points behind Young Boys.
The question that is on everyone’s mind now is what Bayer and Zürich’s sides will show up on Thursday night? Both Bayer and Zürich have shown moments of brilliance this season, and while FCZ have been more consistent die Werkself are more talented and should, at least on paper, have enough to win this match.
Leverkusen vs Zürich – Players to look out for:
Kai Havertz #29 – Bayer Leverkusen
Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz is the 2018/19 UEFA Europa League’s joint top scorer with three goals – level with Salzburg’s Munas Dabbur and Dinamo Zagreb’s Izet Hajrović. Havertz has also had more attempts on target in the opening two matches – six – than any other player. Those numbers highlight the importance of the 18-year-old playmaker for Bayer Leverkusen’s play at the moment. Havertz has also scored one goal and two assists in eight Bundesliga games this season and is considered as one of the prospects that could turn around the fortunes for Germany’s national team. “He is the biggest talent since Toni Kroos”, Heiko Herrlich told the media this summer. As a result, the German platform transfermarkt.de recently re-evaluated Havertz’s transfer value to €55 million, which makes him the second most valuable teenager on the planet after Paris Saint-Germain sensation Kylian Mbappé.
Stephen Odey #15 – FC Zürich
Stephen Odey will be one to watch on Thursday. The 20-year-old Nigerian striker joined Zürich in October 2017 and has scored three goals in ten Swiss Super League games for FCZ. Switzerland has been for some time the gateway for African talent trying to make their mark in Europe and observers believe it will only be a matter of time for Odey to become the next big star to be exported from Switzerland to one of Europe’s bigger leagues.
Leverkusen vs Zürich – Match Stats
- There had been one previous meeting of the clubs prior to matchday three, Leverkusen winning 5-0 in Zurich in the final group game of the 2007/08 UEFA Cup.
- The 5-0 triumph was the German club’s joint biggest margin of victory in European competition as well as the Swiss side’s heaviest home defeat.
- FCZ had never beaten a Bundesliga club until the win on 25 October.
- Zürich have recorded two wins in 15 encounters with German opposition, both were against teams from the East German Oberliga – at home to Dynamo Dresden and Berliner FC Dynamo.
- Leverkusen were undefeated in three previous matches against Swiss opposition before that 3-2 loss on matchday three, their only other tie a 3-1 aggregate win over Sion in the first round of the 2006/07 UEFA Cup.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction:Leverkusen vs Zürich – 3-1
Leverkusen vs Zürich – Lineups
Hradecky – Jedvaj, S. Bender, Tah – Wendell, Havertz, L. Bender, Weiser – Brandt, Volland, Bailey
Head Coach: Heiko Herrlich
Brecher – Modou, Maxsö, Bangura, Rüegg – Kryeziu, Domjoni – Kololli, Marchesano, Khelifi – Odey
Head Coach: Ludovic Magnin
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.
Stephen Odey, according to Transfermarkt, has made so far 9 goals and two assists in 18 games played (in all competitions: Europa League; Swiss Cup; Swiss Super League). Leverkusen should win the game, but Zurich has some youngsters keen to impress: Kololli; Ruegg and Odey.
On the other hand, Bayer has Havertz which is one of the best prospects on European football.