Home » Football Europa League: Leverkusen – with heart and class into “crunch time”

Football Europa League: Leverkusen – with heart and class into “crunch time”

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Football Europa League: Leverkusen – with heart and class into “crunch time”

As of: March 7, 2024 10:42 a.m

They are leading the way in the Bundesliga and have the dream of winning the championship in mind: On Thursday they have to take a short break – as a “sidestep” for Bayer Leverkusen they also want to survive in the Europa League.

They have to change the “discipline” for a moment – but the Bayer Leverkusen footballers want to stick to their mode. For weeks this has meant thinking and working with concentration from game to game. And: win. So things run smoothly for coach Xabi Alonso’s team. “We have a broad squad and we can react. We are ready for the English weeks that are coming now,” said Alonso on Wednesday morning (March 6, 2024). On Thursday his team will play against the Azerbaijani club Qarabag Agdam (6.45 p.m.).

Thu., 6.45 p.m.: Qarabag Agdam – Leverkusen Arrow right Round of 16 Arrow right

The recent victory at 1. FC Köln, the rival from the other side of the Rhine, represents something of an exemplary event for the astonishing professionalism and current infallibility of the Bayer team. Against someone who was motivated to the core and with everything allowed and at times The team stayed cool despite their opponents using illegal means, kept an overview and won confidently in the end.

Xhaka – grown as a leader

Which has a lot to do with Granit Xhaka. The midfield strategist, once known as a hothead, has undoubtedly taken over the baton in the Bayer game and determines the pace and rhythm of almost all actions. And – perhaps even more important: he acts as a kind of “alpha animal” and is also the mental leader of the team.

Which occasionally leads to arguments with opponents. He always had that in the past – when he was at Gladbach in 2015, it led to him being sent off three times in a row and being recommended “psychological help”. But now the whole thing often ends differently than it once did: in favor of the Swiss.

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Maximum will to succeed

Like against Cologne, when Xhaka was badly hit from behind by young Jan Thielmann. A foul that blows the fuses of many a victim – Xhaka was upset but kept himself under control. And so Thielmann alone went off with a red card – Bayer’s victory was basically just a formality from that point on.

Xhaka symbolizes the new style under the Bayer Cross almost perfectly: professional, self-confident, calm, focused. The captain and record-breaking player of the Swiss national team, who Bayer has had their eye on for a long time and for good reason, exudes maximum will to succeed not only on the pitch but also in the dressing room.

Qarabag Agdam – just a stopover?

Hardly anyone doubts that the upcoming round of the Europa League can only be a stopover for the team. Qarabag Agdam and Bayer know each other very well; both met in the preliminary round of the competition. “It’s good to know the opponent well. There is no surprise. But the game is different to the group stage,” said Alonso.

The Azerbaijani club finished Group H in second place behind the “Werkself” and prevailed in the round of 16 playoffs against Portuguese club FC Braga. For Qarabag it is the first round of 16 in a UEFA competition. Bayer 04 won both duels in the group phase (5:1 and 1:0). The second leg will take place on Thursday, March 14th at the BayArena.

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