Bayern seek divine intervention as Leverkusen pull out of sight

Leon Goretzka in action for Bayern. File photo

With Bayer Leverkusen threatening to run away with the Bundesliga title, Thomas Mueller appealed to a higher power ahead of Bayern Munich’s home clash with Mainz on Saturday.

Xabi Alonso’s side are 10 points clear of Bayern with 10 games remaining, but Mueller — a veteran of 12 Bundesliga titles, including the last 11 in a row — knows his side can never be counted out.

“We want to give the football gods another chance to keep the cliche alive,” Mueller said after Bayern returned to form with a 3-0 win over Lazio on Tuesday to make the Champions League last eight.

The ‘cliche’ Mueller was referring to is Leverkusen’s unwanted reputation of crumbling in big moments and finishing second, which sparked their ‘Neverkusen’ nickname.

But Mueller admitted: “Right now they don’t look like Neverkusen but we want to stay in the race.”

In 2002, Leverkusen were five points clear in the league with three games to go and had qualified for the Champions League and German Cup finals — but finished runners-up in all three competitions.

Leverkusen have never won the Bundesliga, finishing second five times, and no team in history has accumulated as many points as them without winning the title.

Leverkusen midfielder Robert Andrich, 29, said Wednesday he “can’t remember that much” of 2002, telling reporters that “a lot has changed since then — you can’t compare it”.

“We have a very good team across the board. We’re clear headed. We’re not celebrating anything yet or feeling safe… We are confident things won’t go like they did in 2002.”

Dropping just two of a possible 30 points in their past 10 league games would indicate Alonso’s Leverkusen have banished the ghosts of the past.

Indeed, with just two wins in their past six games, it is Bayern who are feeling the heat.

Already told to pack his bags in summer, coach Thomas Tuchel avoided having his exit brought forward with Tuesday’s win.

Tuchel — who limped around the Allianz Arena after reportedly breaking his toe trying to motivate his players during his pre-match speech — faces his former side Mainz on Saturday.

Despite sitting second-last, Mainz have a strong recent record against Bayern and boast three wins from their past six league meetings.

Far from asking for divine intervention, Mainz coach Bo Henriksen said Thursday “many people want to bury us — but I believe in my team.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you it’ll be tough on Saturday. But we have a good chance. I’m confident.”

Leaders Leverkusen face 13th-placed Wolfsburg on Sunday, who are without a win in their last eight outings.

One to watch: Niclas Fuellkrug (Borussia Dortmund)

Borussia Dortmund striker Niclas Fuellkrug returns to Werder Bremen for the first time on Saturday and will receive an official farewell.

Fuellkrug came through the Bremen junior system and helped the club get promoted in 2021-22, before joining Dortmund last summer.

A bright light in Dortmund’s inconsistent season, the 31-year-old German international already has 11 goals and eight assists in 22 league games.

Fuellkrug told a Bremen fan magazine on Thursday that he may shelve his trademark bicep goal celebration at the Weserstadion and “will always be a fan of this team and the club”.

Key stats

64 – Bayer Leverkusen have 64 points with 10 games remaining. Last year, Bayern and Dortmund finished on 71, with the Bavarians winning on goal difference.

0 – Leverkusen remain unbeaten with 10 games to play. No team has ever gone unbeaten through a Bundesliga season.

8 – Eight points separate Cologne, in the relegation playoff position, from the safety of 15th spot.

Fixtures (1430 GMT unless stated)


Stuttgart v Union Berlin (1930)


Borussia Moenchengladbach v Cologne, RB Leipzig v Darmstadt, Bayern Munich v Mainz, Augsburg v Heidenheim, Werder Bremen v Borussia Dortmund (1730)


Bochum v Freiburg, Eintracht Frankfurt v Hoffenheim (1630), Bayer Leverkusen v Wolfsburg (1830)

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