B.Dortmund-B.Leverkusen. PHOTO: www.bayer04.de

The defending Bundesliga champions were optimistic at the start of the season, and were considered runway favourites for the championship along with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. The star-studded line-up includes such international names as Ballack, Bender, Rolfes, Schürrle, Kiessling and Derdiyok.

But now in February, it is looking very unlikely that they'll be retaining their German title. They're down in sixth with 31 points, 15 less than the leaders, and even their place in the next edition of the Champions League is in trouble – they're 12 points adrift at the moment.

Two major absentees

The season started with a major setback in the German cup, the DFB Pokal, when they lost 4-3 to Dresden in the first round after leading 3-0. That was in July, and now they have lost both midfielder Sam (who sprained a muscle against Stuttgart a week ago) and striker Derdiyok (who trod on glass in a domestic accident) at such a key moment of the campaign. Neither of them will available against Barcelona.

Corluka the winter signing

With things not going at all to plan, manager Robin Dutt brought in left back Vendran Corluka during the winter transfer window. He is on loan with an option to buy and has helped reinforce the Bayern defence, which has been particularly weak this season and has been blamed for the loss of several points despite the team's solid goalscoring form. Particularly frustrating have been the losses to Hamburg, Hertha Berlin and Stuttgart, all games in which Bayern had taken an early lead.

There are also question marks regarding Michael Ballack, who was the big name signing of last summer but has struggled to hold down a regular place in the first team – and is also currently sidelined through injury.

Kiessling gets goal

But it isn't all doom and gloom at Leverkusen. In last week's game with Stuttgart, striker Stefan Kiessling ended a 766 minute goalscoring drought. Along with Schürrle, Kiessling is one of the 'aspirins' main attacking duo, even more so now that Derdiyok is injured.

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