Unbeaten treble?! Leverkusen stay on course with victory at Bochum


The sight of Bayern Munich lifting the Bundesliga Meisterschale has been very familiar in recent years.

Eleven titles in a row, the Bavarians have dominated the German top division for more than a decade.

But this year has proven to be very different. Borussia Dortmund, who missed out on toppling them with virtually the last kick last season, have risen from the canvas to reach the Champions League final under Edin Terzic.

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Highlights of the Bundesliga clash between VFL Bochum and Bayer Leverkusen.

Bayern could still finish in third behind Stuttgart, but Bayer Leverkusen have been head and shoulders above the chasing pack.

A corporate-owned club with plastic fans that has bought moderate success over 20 years – that is the unkind stereotype opposition fans have dismissed them as.

But on the pitch, there is nothing but praise for the work Xabi Alonso has done this season, having been appointed manager in October 2022 with the club second from bottom in the Bundesliga with just five points from the opening eight games.

Bayer Leverkusen’s remaining fixtures

  • Saturday May 18: FC Augsburg (H), Kick-off 2.20pm
  • Wednesday May 22: Atalanta (N), Kick-off 8pm (Europa League final)
  • Saturday May 25: Kaiserslautern (N), Kick-off 7pm (DFB-Pokal Cup)

Not long before Alonso’s arrival, Leverkusen had been humiliated in the DFB-Pokal by the third-division side SV Elversberg.

For the club’s sporting director, Simon Rolfes, it was a big show of faith in a man who had previously only worked as the head coach at Real Sociedad’s B team in Spain.

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Xabi Alonso says Bayer Leverkusen ‘don’t want to stop’ after keeping their unbeaten record intact with a 1-1 draw with West Ham in the Europa League.

But Alonso’s meteoric rise led to him at one stage becoming the front-runner to replace Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool. He has taken a group of players once deemed unremarkable and assembled a title-winning machine.

A two-time Champions League winner with Liverpool and Real Madrid, his transition to become a coach naturally sparked intrigue, but to take a team that was floundering and turn them into Invincibles would rank high among the greatest stories in modern football.

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Granit Xhaka heaps praise on head coach Xabi Alonso after he steers the German side Bayer Leverkusen to a very first Bundesliga title.

Leverkusen set a new record among European clubs of 49 successive games unbeaten in all competitions as they secured a late draw with Roma to reach the Europa League final. They extended that to 50 games with a 5-0 win away at Bochum.

So how did Alonso do it? Successful recruitment has played no small part with Victor Boniface, Granit Xhaka, Jonas Hofmann and Alex Grimaldo all acclimatising quickly.

“To prepare for this year, we started thinking about these strategic players in the strategic positions, who could make us and where we could be better,” Alonso said in the autumn.

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Bayer Leverkusen are on the verge of achieving what was long considered impossible… ousting champions FC Bayern München from their throne and becoming Bundesliga champions. Here’s how Xabi Alonso has forged a practically perfect team.

Jamie Carragher’s analysis of Alonso’s managerial style earlier this season highlighted the intelligence that is deployed in luring opponents into traps, creating space in the wide areas for the likes of Grimaldo and Jeremie Frimpong.

Bundesliga sides have had no answer, and then there has been the innate gift of maintaining that intensity until the final whistle.

Even though they were heading through 3-2 on aggregate against Roma on Thursday, Leverkusen were the side pressing at the end, spurred on by the unbeaten record they were so desperate to preserve.

Josip Stanisic celebrates Leverkusen's late equaliser
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Josip Stanisic celebrates Leverkusen’s late equaliser against Roma

Josip Stanisic’s goal in the seventh minute of stoppage time was the 12th time this season Leverkusen have scored after the 90th minute, with all seven proving decisive.

After yet another comeback, Alonso said: “It’s difficult to explain this kind of situation once and over and over again. I’m kind of speechless again that we were able to come back, to show this character and not to lose the game.

“We have shown great character and the boys kept having the confidence that we were in the right way, even after the 2-0 (for Roma).

Leverkusen have developed a habit of leaving it late
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Leverkusen have developed a habit of leaving it late

“You can have a few doubts, you can lose the control, you try to change a little bit the way you play. But we kept doing the right things.”

Longest unbeaten run across all competitions after the introduction of UEFA club competitions (1955–56)

  • 50 – Bayer Leverkusen (2023–2024 – present)
  • 48 – Benfica (1963–1965)
  • 45 – Dinamo Zagreb (2014–2015)
  • 45 – Rijeka (2016–2017)
  • 44 – Rangers (1992–1993)
  • 43 – Juventus (2011–2012)
  • 42 – Milan (1991–1992)
  • 42 – Ajax (1995–1996)
  • 41 – The New Saints (2023–2024)

Having seen off Bayern to be crowned Bundesliga champions for the first time in their history, Alonso’s side are now heavy favourites to complete an historic unbeaten treble.

Augsburg are the visitors to BayArena next weekend, before Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta provide what looks like the stiffest remaining challenge in the Europa League final in Dublin four days later.

Xabi Alonso has vowed to stay on next season
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Xabi Alonso has vowed to stay on next season

Kaiserslautern, who are 14th in the 2. Bundesliga and still not safe from a relegation play-off, face Leverkusen in the DFB-Pokal Cup in Berlin on May 25.

Atalanta face Juventus in the Coppa Italia final next week, and their defeat of Liverpool earlier in the competition underlines their credentials.

But having broken a record set by an iconic Benfica side that stood for 59 years, Alonso and Leverkusen are close to sporting immortality.

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Bayer Leverkusen head coach Xabi Alonso admits the club’s maiden German Bundesliga title will take time to sink after their historic achievement.

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