Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp says Bayer Leverkusen are opponents to be feared in the battle for second place in the Bundesliga.
Bayern Munich hold a commanding 11-point lead at the top of the table, and appear to have one hand on the league title already, leaving Leverkusen and reigning champions Dortmund to scrap for second place and automatic qualification for the Champions League.
The two teams meet on Sunday, with third-placed Dortmund aiming to leapfrog Leverkusen and move second.
“This is a real top match now, I’m not sure if it was also last time we met, because it’s hard to say such things so early in the season,” Klopp said, referring to Dortmund’s 3-0 home win over Leverkusen in September.
“But now it is for sure. Not only because of the standings, but because of the quality of both teams.
“Honestly there wasn’t a moment when I thought ‘oh luckily it’s just Leverkusen’. It’s going to be a really tough match. You could see in their last match against Freiburg, that was a battle on the highest level.”
Leverkusen, who were held to a 0-0 draw at Freiburg last week, are the only team to have won against a dominant Bayern Munich so far this season.
And while they are also above Dortmund in the standings, coach Sami Hyypia knows his squad has some way to go before they can aim to match the recent achievements of the champions.
“They are one step further in their development then we are,” he said.
“But we are working very hard, we work a lot to close this gap and get closer. And I hope we will be better then Dortmund soon.”