Bundesliga 2013-2014 Season Preview: Bayer Leverkusen

Joern Pollex

Bayer Leverkusen finished third last season, just one point behind Borussia Dortmund. Can they repeat last year's performance even without Andre Schürrle?

Last season was another great one for Leverkusen finishing in third place and qualifying for the Champions League once again. Since taking over the side after the failed Robin Dutt experiment, Sami Hyypiä and Sasha Lewandowski have turned the side completely around and has them playing great football once again. Plus, they have a lot going for them including being the only team to beat Bayern Munich last season in the Bundesliga.

Stefan Kießling

A lot of their success this season will once again hinge on the goalscoring prowess of Stefan Kießling. The occasional Germany international (WHY IS HE NOT PLAYING MORE?) scored 25 goals last season to put his two year total at 41. Will the 29 year old repeat the scoring over the next season? Maybe. Maybe not. Leverkusen will certainly hope that he does. Aside from Kießling, there aren't many proven goalscorers on the team, so if something were to happen to him, it could get ugly for Leverkusen.

Transfers In

The big moves that Leverkusen made were on the defensive side, and they are all good signings from where I stand.

The big one is the acquisition of Emir Spahic from Sevilla. The Bosnian centerback will immediately challenge and likely take one of the starting centerback positions to help solidify the defense in front of "Oh my god he's still only 21 years old" Bernd Leno. It's likely that Spahic will partner Ömer Toprak at centerback while Philipp Wollscheid becomes the first sub. Don't be mistaken: This is a huge signing for Leverkusen.

The other three defensive players are Roberto Hilbert, Giulio Donati, and Kostas Stafylidis (returning from a loan to PAOK). Hilbert can immediately slot in at either fullback position (mostly a right back) and contribute when necessary. Donati will likely inherit the starting right back position but will be challenged by the young Stafylidis and experienced Hilbert.

Trying to round out their attacking corps, Leverkusen brought in Robbie Kruse from Fortuna Düsseldorf and Son Heung-Min from Hamburg. Son will likely find himself dispatched in the attacking midfield position filling the spot vacated by Andre Schürrle's departure. The Australian Kruse will find himself as a supersub off the bench to add a spark of energy to any match that he's thrown into.

Transfers Out

Junior Fernandes was loaned out to Dinamo Zagreb for the upcoming season. After making a €7 million transfer from Universidad de Chile, Fernandes never really got going on the field for Leverkusen in his few minutes and hasn't scored a goal in Europe yet. Leverkusen are hoping that a loan to Zagreb will kickstart his career once again.

Obviously, the most newsworthy transfer for Leverkusen this summer was Andre Schürrle heading to Chelsea. While there is no questioning Schürrle's talents on the field, there is the belief that he is replaceable. While Son may not be quite as good as Schürrle, the drop off isn't that drastic, and Leverkusen have now rid themselves of a player that sometimes caused headaches and received a pretty transfer fee for him

Perhaps the most important transfer outs this summer were Hajime Hosogai to Hertha Berlin, Daniel Carvajal to Real Madrid, and Michal Kadlec to Fenerbahce. Carvajal is the big loss here, as the Spaniard started the majority of Leverkusen's matches last season at right back and was quite the revelation. The other issue is the fact that his backup, Hosogai, was also sold. For the loss of these three players to not be felt as severely, the new signings must step up and contribute immediately.

Season Outlook

Leverkusen will qualify for the Champions League next season, likely finishing in third or fourth. My predictions were Bayern Munich in first, Borussia Dortmund in second, Leverkusen in third, and Schalke in fourth. I think that Leverkusen will be closer to BVB than Schalke will be to Leverkusen. The squad is good enough to get out of the group stage of the Champions League this year, and good times are ahead.

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