TOTaking into account the series of 40 competitive matches without defeat, what Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky said after his team's 1-0 victory against Union Berlin sounded like a dark threat for their next opponent. “Next week we will let our feet do the talking,” the Finn said in a deep voice.

Next week, specifically next Sunday, we will play at home against Werder Bremen. It could be a historic match, because with a victory Bayer would no longer be able to take away its first German championship. “That speaks for us, it speaks for the team. So early, five days before the end,” Hradecky said.

There is no longer any doubt that Leverkusen will end FC Bayern's ten-year dominance. The question is no longer if Bayer will become champions, but when and how. If Munich loses next Saturday against 1. FC Köln, Bayer would already be champions. “The situation is great,” says Bayer coach Xabi Alonso.

Labor victory category

Bayern's defeat in Heidenheim (2:3) and Leverkusen's simultaneous 1-0 victory in Berlin contributed to the great situation from Bayer's point of view.

The success at Alte Försterei falls under the category of industrial victory. The decisive scene occurred when the first part had already passed its stoppage time. Injury time had expired when Robin Gosens made a rustic tackle in his own area, with which he carefully separated his opponent Nathan Tella from the pitch. As it was not Gosen's first offense of the afternoon, referee Benjamin Brand sent him off the field.

After that, things got weird. Leverkusen's Alejandro Grimaldo took the free kick into the defense zone for Piero Hincapie, who fired the ball onto the post. In the confusion of legs and bodies, he found his way to Kouakou Kossounou, who pushed him towards the goal. Referee Brand called offside, which turned out to be correct on the next review. Amine Adli was in the penalty zone. But television images revealed something completely different.

Coach Xabi Alonso prepares Leverkusen to perfection week after week.

Coach Xabi Alonso prepares Leverkusen to perfection week after week.

Image: Reuters

When Hincapie shot, Union's Christopher Trimmel reflexively shot his arm toward the ball. Touched very delicately with his arm and the ball, Brand pointed out the place in coordination with his video assistant. Penalty for Leverkusen, Florian Wirtz converted safely. Unión suffered the double punishment of being sent off and conceding a goal at half-time and could not get rid of it as the match progressed.

In Berlin, Leverkusen showed several attributes of a top-level team and, even more so, the self-image of a future German champion. After all their successes, the confidence in their own strength is almost unlimited: Leverkusen acted calmly, confidently on the ball and determined in the Alte Försterei. Everything Bayer did with and without the ball happened too often for 1. FC Union.

Perfectly trained technical team

Instead, Berlin added toughness to Leverkusen's game, but even that didn't help. Gosens violently cleared Florian Wirtz, his tackle was close to a red card. No, it wasn't supposed to be Robin Gosens day. Shortly after his rude foul, Nathan Tella tricked him on the touchline and Union goalkeeper Frederik Rönnow was barely able to defend himself from a Borja Iglesias header.

Tella and Iglesias were two of the six new players that Xabi Alonso brought in after the successful Cup match against Fortuna Düsseldorf (4-0) in Berlin. But in Leverkusen it doesn't matter who plays. In the spring of 2024, Bayer 04 will be a perfectly formed coaching staff, in which everyone knows and fulfills their tasks.

That is also the explanation for this season, which could become historic. Bayer remains undefeated in three competitions. Alsonso's team will hardly be able to take away the Bundesliga title, they are favorites in the DFB Cup final against Kaiserslautern from the second division and the Europa League quarterfinals will soon be played against West Ham. Everything is possible there too.

In recent weeks, Bayer has shown time and time again that the team knows how to deal with adversity and setbacks. More than once he turned in a game late. The most recent was last weekend against Hoffenheim (2-1). Things have never been so uneasy in Berlin. Leverkusen spent the second half in almost constant possession of the ball, Union had no real chance to score, although the Berliners defended honestly.

In the final phase, some high and open balls flew into the Leverkusen penalty area, but they did not embarrass Bayer's confident defensive line. Xabi Alonso could not defend himself against premature congratulations. “Congratulations on the victory, congratulations on the title,” said Union coach Nenad Bjelica, and Alonso smiled the calm smile of a connoisseur.