TSG pair snapped up
Sporting managing director Rudi Völler and Co. react to the departure of Julian Brandt (Borussia Dortmund) and sign two versatile midfielders Kerem Demirbay and Nadiem Amiri (see photo). The duo join Leverkusen from TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. Plus Moussa Diaby from Paris Saint-Germain and Daley Sinkgraven (Ajax). Adrian Stanilewicz moves up to the first-team squad from the U19s.
Back to the roots in Aachen
The first competitive match of the season takes three Black and Red protagonists on a trip down memory lane. The Werkself are away to Alemannia Aachen in the first round proper of the DFB Cup and that brings back fond memories of old times for Simon Rolfes, Kai Havertz (see photo) and Hans-Peter Lehnhoff - the trio all have a past at the Tivoli ground. The Werkself sail through to the next round with a 4-1 win.
Solid start in the league
On matchday one in the new Bundesliga season, Bayer 04 beat newly promoted SC Paderborn 3-2 at home. That is followed by another three points away at Fortuna Düsseldorf (3-1) and a goalless draw against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. Then comes a heavy 4-0 away defeat at Borussia Dortmund on 14 September.
Champions League against Lokomotiv Moscow
The Werkself start the Champions League campaign in the middle of September with a home game against Lokomotiv Moscow. The hosts go a goal down after 15 minutes. Lokomotiv’s former Germany international Benedikt Höwedes scores an own goal to put Bayer 04 back on level terms (25’) before the Moscow team regain the lead before half-time (37’) - the scoreline remains unchanged after 90 minutes with a 2-1 defeat for the Werkself.
It’s getting colder in the Rhineland. And the results for the Black and Reds do not engender much passion. The Werkself fail to win any of the first five games in October. The team under head coach Peter Bosz are on the verge of going out of the Champions League after a 3-0 defeat at Juventus and a 1-0 loss at Atlético Madrid. At the end of October there is at least a 1-0 home win against SC Paderborn in the second round of the DFB Cup.
Joy in the following month
With the boost of the win against SC Paderborn in the DFB Cup, the Werkself pick up pace in November with the exception of the 2-1 defeat against Borussia Mönchengladbach. A 2-1 victory at home to Atletico ensures being in Europe in the New Year and, thanks to the 2-1 away win at Lokomotiv Moscow, there is still the mathematical chance of qualifying for the knockout rounds in the Champions League.
Victory at Bayern
A top match full of excitement and goalscoring opportunities takes place at the Allianz Arena in Munich. And it was a great night for one man: Leon Bailey (see photo). The Jamaican gave the Werkself the lead on ten minutes. Thomas Müller levelled on 34 minutes but Bailey refused to give up and he scored a minute later to inflict the first competitive defeat on Bayern Munich's successful coach Hansi Flick.
The Werkself go into the winter break sixth in the table following a 1-0 away win at FSV Mainz 05 three days before Christmas Eve. While the first-team get the chance to rest and recuperate, the Bayer 04 management are active on the transfer market. While Joel Pohjanpalo (Hamburg SV) and Panos Retsos (Sheffield United) go out on loan for six months, Exequiel Palacios (River Plate) and Edmond Tapsoba (Victoria Vitória Guimarães/see photo) join the Werkself.
Worked up to a frenzy
The Werkself put together an incredible run from the start of the second half of the season in the middle of January. 11 out of 13 games end in victory with the only points dropped in a 1-1 draw against RB Leipzig and a 2-1 away defeat at Hoffenheim. The absolute highlight of this brilliant phase was the 4-3 win against Borussia Dortmund in front of a full house at the BayArena. After going 3-2 down, the Werkself turned it round to win 4-3 with Leon Bailey (81') and skipper Lars Bender (82'/see photo) raising the roof at the home of the Werkself.
Victory at Ibrox - and then?
All goes well for Bayer 04 at the start of March too. A win against Union Berlin sees the team progress to the DFB Cup semi-finals and there is a convincing 4-0 home victory over Eintracht Frankfurt. The Werkself travel to Scotland on 11 March for the first leg of the Round of 16 tie against Rangers in the Europa League. But then the coronavirus pandemic looms on the horizon. At that point it was unclear what the effects would be on football and the match was in the balance. It was finally decided to play the game with the Werkself running out 3-1 winners in front of a sell-out 50,000 crowd at Ibrox. A day later it becomes clear that this is the last top European match played in front of spectators for the time being.
Enforced break due to coronavirus
The first leagues in Europe are cancelled, the Bundesliga is initially suspended. The coronavirus pandemic has quickly hit professional football. Shortly after that, the German Football League (DFL) suspends fixtures until further notice. That marks the start of the waiting, communication and worry about if and when football will be resumed. At first, health is centre stage. Time has to be won to relieve the pressure on hospitals. Germany, like many other countries, is in lockdown. The Werkself players train at home, and later in small groups under strict hygiene regulations.
During the time of the lockdown and the suspension of fixtures, the DFL led by CEO Christian Seifert works together with professional clubs, politicians, and the healthcare sector to develop a comprehensive safety and hygiene plan for returning to playing games. After sessions in small groups, the Werkself hold full training at the start of May – with regular coronavirus testing – for the first time in 57 days. The politicians gave the green light for resuming Bundesliga fixtures just before that.
The day finally comes on 18 May: The Werkself have another Bundesliga game. In the days before, Lars Bender and Co. were able to get an impression of the new atmosphere without fans and with the hygiene regulations on the TV screens at the quarantine hotel. The team under coach Peter Bosz are away to Werder Bremen on Monday night at the end of matchday 26 – and they secured a convincing 4-1 win. That is followed by a 3-1 away victory at Borussia Mönchengladbach plus the first defeat in a home game without fans against VfL Wolfsburg (1-4).
Semi-final victory in DFB Cup
The luck of the draw was on the side of the Werkself: The Bundesliga team travel to third division newcomers FC Saarbrücken in the DFB Cup semi-finals. The tie is played in Völklingen. However, as elsewhere, the FCS supporters are unable to attend the match due to the coronavirus pandemic. Bayer 04 produce an extremely professional performance to clock up a convincing 3-0 win. That ensures the fourth qualification for the cup final in the club's history with FC Bayern providing the opposition at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.
Missed UCL qualification
After reaching the final, the Werkself are away at the Veltins Arena. The game against Schalke ends all square at 1-1. That is followed by a 3-1 victory in the derby against FC Köln – and then a disappointing 2-0 defeat at Hertha Berlin. That means a win is required on matchday 34 at home to Mainz 05 with other results fitting in. However, Borussia Mönchengladbach beat Hertha Berlin 2-1 at home to secure qualification for the Champions League. The Werkself win 1-0 but end up fifth in the table at the end of the season.
The DFB Cup final against FC Bayern is seven days later. The day before, the Werkself set off from the BayArena in the direction of Cologne/Bonn airport. Several hundred fans gather at the stadium to give their backing to the team and show: We are behind you! It's an emotional departure heading for the capital.
04th final in Berlin
Having landed in Berlin, the Black and Reds head to the team hotel on Potsdamer Platz. On the day of the 04th DFB Cup final in the club's history, the team complete their obligatory walk in the afternoon. Around two hours before kick-off, the two team busses leave the team hotel. The kick off is at 20.00 CEST. The champions of Germany from Munich lead 2-0 on the half-hour mark and Robert Lewandowski makes it 3-0 on 60 minutes. But the Werkself refuse to give up and shortly after that pull a goal back through Sven Bender (64'). Lewandowski scores again on 90 minutes. Kai Havertz slots a penalty into the top corner of the net on the final whistle in added time (90+5'). FC Bayern complete the double.
Europa League finals tournament
The league season is over for the Werkself – but there is still European action. The 3-1 win in the Europa League Round of 16 at the beginning of March is followed by a two-week break and equally long training preparations for Bayer 04 after the victory in the second leg of the Round of 16 against Rangers (1-0), which seals qualification for the Europa League finals in North Rhine Westphalia. The next opposition are the top team Inter Milan. The Black and Reds suffer a narrow 2-1 defeat against the Italian side in Düsseldorf and are knocked out of the competition.