After finishing last season in third place and notching up their highest points tally since 2012/13, Bayer 04 Leverkusen could go into the summer break satisfied. Things looked to be continuing on an upward trend, as the team's top scorer Patrick Schick signed a contract extension to remain loyal to the Werkself, while winger Moussa Diaby was also retained - everything seemed to be in place to build on the success of the last campaign and go into the new season stronger than ever.
That, however, has not been the case so far. The first-round exit in the DFB-Pokal after a 4-3 defeat away to newly-promoted 3. Liga outfit SV Elversberg was painful enough, but then Bayer added to their woes by losing their first two Bundesliga games as well. A 1-0 loss away to Borussia Dortmund was followed by a 2-1 defeat at home to FC Augsburg. As a result, Leverkusen enter Matchday 3 rooted at the bottom of the table; only once before have they been in this position since the three-point rule was introduced. The club have also never suffered three straight losses to start the season in the Bundesliga.
"A normal performance just won't cut it, we have to earn our success all over again," was what Leverkusen head coach Gerardo Seoane said about his team's record so far in a recent press conference. The achievements of last season no longer count for anything, Leverkusen are starting from ground zero - which is where their points total stands after the first two matchdays.
Bayer 04 will most likely once again be able to count on the services of two key players for Saturday's game against Hoffenheim. Goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky will return to the side after serving his suspension for a red card on the opening matchday, while Robert Andrich is back in team training. "If the week goes well, he will be ready to play at the weekend," explained Seoane. Wingers Amine Adli and Karim Bellarabi are unavailable, while substitute goalkeeper Andrey Lunev is also out of action. Top talent Florian Wirtz is still in rehabilitation after tearing his cruciate ligament.
Leverkusen have lacked efficiency above all else in their last two games, despite the fact this was their great strength last season. Coach Gerardo Seoane's side failed to convert several great chances in their games against Dortmund and Augsburg, with Patrik Schick unable to find the back of the net despite three gilt-edged opportunities across both games. But this should serve as a warning for TSG; after all, the Werkself are able to work themselves into promising positions often enough. For Leverkusen, a lot is at stake on Saturday. Should they fail to get a result, then their historically bad false start will become even more disastrous.