Bayer Leverkusen has finally got a taste for the Europa League and is now hoping for the really big thing based on the example of Eintracht Frankfurt.
"It's a good competition. You can win a title quickly," said ex-national player Nadiem Amiri after the 2-0 win in the round of 16 first leg against Ferencváros Budapest: "You saw last year that Frankfurt can win this thing. That Of course, we also like it."
The way the win against the Hungarian champion and record champion came about boosted confidence. Although he was anything but glamorous. "It wasn't a spectacular performance, but it was a serious and effective performance," said coach Xabi Alonso, a player in 119 Champions League games with Liverpool, Real Madrid and FC Bayern: "In Europe that's exactly what's important. Of course we can play better. But sometimes it's better to feel that power, not to score and to take the few chances we have."
Bayer almost without injury worries
One thing is clear: Winning the title would be anything but a sure-fire success. Arsenal FC, Manchester United, AS Roma, Juventus Turin or Europa League record winner FC Sevilla are still extremely strong teams in the competition. But should Bayer reach the quarter-finals, the first leg would take place after matchday 27 and the groundbreaking duel with Frankfurt, who are currently sixth. Then it could be foreseeable whether there is still a realistic chance of qualifying for the European Cup via the Bundesliga. Or whether Alonso can fully concentrate on the Europa League when rotating. Even when he rested six players before the second leg of the last round in the 2-3 win against Mainz and won in Monaco, he received praise from sporting director Simon Rolfes.
And that the team, which was so uncertain in the first half of the season, is now ready for bigger tasks, is at least becoming apparent. In addition, after the two outstanding players of the previous season in Florian Wirtz and Patrik Schick were missing in the first half of the season, she currently has almost no injury worries.
However, this time suspended Robert Andrich, otherwise a leader in defensive midfield, went into the dressing room on Thursday with the words "Finally a dirty win". "I don't contradict my buddy," said Kerem Demirbay, who scored the 1-0 (10th), laughing: "That was a very mature performance. It's a process of becoming even more mature, also for the big stage." Amiri called the performance "very mature". Just like in Frankfurt last year.