Bender delighted with 'lurking' Leverkusen
With four wins in a row, and a total of nine wins from 15 games, Bayer Leverkusen have established themselves at the head of the pack chasing Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.
"We are the lurkers of the league," Leverkusen midfielder Lars Bender said after his side had beaten Nurnberg 1-0 at the weekend. "Now we are up there, we have no plans to leave."
"We have matured and stabilised," midfielder Gonazlo Castro said. The 25-year-old has five goals in 15 games and is eyeing an international recall.
Another player waiting for his next cap is striker Stefan Kiessling, who scored the winner against Nurnberg to take his tally to 22 Bundesliga goals in 2012. "Our performances come as no surprise to me," he said. "They are the result of a new mentality."
That result meant Leverkusen had opened a four-point gap over Borussia Dortmund, but that was later reduced to three as Dortmund claimed a point at Munich - who are still eight points clear of second place.
Leverkusen, however, remain the only team to have beaten the leaders, with their 2-1 away win one of six victories in their last seven league games.
A 3-1 away defeat to Wolfsburg has been the only down in an autumn of ups for Leverkusen coaches Sami Hyypia, 39, and Sascha Lewandowski, 41.
The management duo - a unique arrangement in the Bundesliga - were installed after the dismissal of then coach Robin Dutt towards the end of last season.
Leverkusen travel to Hannover next weekend.