Champions League: Alonso return to Madrid: Bayer's "final" at Atlético

When Bayer Leverkusen plays at Atlético Madrid to spend the winter in the Champions League, coach Xabi Alonso hardly has time for nostalgia and something like a sense of home.

Champions League: Alonso return to Madrid: Bayer's "final" at Atlético

When Bayer Leverkusen plays at Atlético Madrid to spend the winter in the Champions League, coach Xabi Alonso hardly has time for nostalgia and something like a sense of home. The situation at Bayer 04 is too precarious, the game too important.

In the Spanish capital, the native Basque Alonso celebrated some of his greatest triumphs with Atlético's local rivals Real Madrid, including taking the handle pot for the premier class champion. He is far away from even remotely similar successes in his first major coaching position. In the Bundesliga, Leverkusen is just before the relegation zone, internationally there is a risk of being eliminated.

Everyone in the Rhineland is aware of the importance of the Atlético game. After the 0: 3 in the last group game against FC Porto - Alonso's Champions League premiere as head coach - the 40-year-old emphasized: "The next game is like a final for us."

With only three points, Leverkusen are bottom of Group B before the penultimate matchday. If Bayer 04 lose this Wednesday at the Wanda Metropolitano (9 p.m. / DAZN), Bayer 04 would end the group stage bottom of the table. The Werkself would only be able to survive the winter in Europe's most important club competition if they win - if FC Porto don't win at FC Bruges, who have already qualified for the round of 16.

Atlético must also score

The problem for Leverkusen is: Atlético can no longer afford to make mistakes. The actual group favorites only have one point more than Bayer 04, losing 2-0 in the first leg in Leverkusen. Coach Diego Simeone's team is considered an expert in efficient results football. Nobody at Bayer knows that better than Alonso, who, as a Real player, fought thrilling duels with arch-rivals between 2011 and 2014. Even then, Atlético was coached by Argentinian Simeone.

In contrast to Bayer 04, the Spaniards should also have plenty of self-confidence. Atlético have scored 13 out of a possible 15 points in the last five league games, eight more than Leverkusen.

The Werkself's 2-2 draw against VfL Wolfsburg last weekend gave the Rhinelanders at least some encouragement. The result was not enough, Alonso said. However, one can take away some positive aspects from the performance. After being 2-1 down for a while, Bayer showed morale, equalized and was then closer to victory than VfL.

"We finally fought," said goalkeeper and captain Lukas Hradecky. "I missed that." Midfielder Robert Andrich said: "The way we really wanted to win is something we can take with us."

In addition to a winning mentality, Bayer 04 would also benefit from attacking strategist and national player Florian Wirtz in Madrid. Alonso will have to do without the 19-year-old when he returns to Spain, although he had returned to team training the day before departure after injuring his cruciate ligament.

The possible lineups:

Atletico Madrid: Oblak - Savic, Gimenez, Reinildo - Molina, Carrasco - Witsel - de Paul, Kondogbia - Griezmann, Morata

Bayer Leverkusen: Hradecky - Kossounou, Tah, Tapsoba - Frimpong, Andrich, Amiri, Bakker - Diaby, Adli - Schick

Referee: Clément Turpin (France)

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