Despite a risky major rotation, Bayer Leverkusen remains on course for the European Cup in the Bundesliga.
Between the two round of 16 games in the Europa League against Ferencvaros Budapest and a week before the highlight game against Bayern Munich in the league, the Rhinelanders won 3-2 (1-1) at Werder Bremen and are still involved in the fight for seventh place , which could end up being enough for the Europa Conference League. Sixth place, where the currently weakened Frankfurters are, is only six points away.
Alonso rotates strongly: focus on Europa League
In front of 41,000 spectators in the Weser Stadium, the heavily weakened Bremen team took the lead after half an hour through Marvin Ducksch. Mitchel Bakker (34th minute), Jeremie Frimpong (56th) and Adam Hlozek (83rd) turned the game in favor of the guests before Niclas Füllkrug (86th) scored the final result with a hand penalty.
Three days after the 2-0 win over Ferencvaros, Bayer coach Xabi Alonso made five changes to his team. Among other things, Florian Wirtz was rested. The 19-year-old was not even included in the squad because he is slightly injured. "That wasn't possible for today," said Bayer CEO Simon Rolfes before the game at DAZN. "We're careful with him." After all, the midfielder had been out for months due to an injury.
Patrick Schick and Karim Bellarabi were also not part of the squad, but Alonso had shown himself to be self-confident even before the game. "The competition is tough and that gives me enough opportunities for the starting XI on Sunday and with a view to next week. I make decisions with foresight," said the Bayer coach.
The focus of the Rhinelanders is shifting to the Europa League these days. Eintracht Frankfurt, which secured a place in the financially much more lucrative Champions League last year by winning the Europa League, serves as a model. "It's a good competition. You can win a title quickly," ex-national player Nadiem Amiri said after the 2-0 win in the round of 16 first leg against Ferencvaros: "You saw last year that Frankfurt can win this thing. That Of course, we also like it."
Bayer counters leadership quickly, filling jug makes it exciting
The leap into the premier class for Bayer via the Bundesliga is hardly realistic anymore. The top four in the table are already far ahead. Nevertheless, the full focus on Europe can also be a risk. After all, the competition in the Europa League with teams like Manchester United, Juventus Turin and Feyenoord Rotterdam is also tough.
In Bremen, however, it was difficult for the guests to concentrate on everyday life in the league. Against the badly battered hosts, who also had to do without the ailing Leonardo Bittencourt for a short time, the offensive faltered enormously at first. Werder took command after a tough start and took the lead through Ducksch, which was not undeserved. But the Werder joy didn't last long. Just three minutes later, Bakker equalized with a powerful shot.
Even after the change of sides, Werder mostly acted dominantly and had more chances. But Leverkusen scored the decisive goal. Frimpong's shot was deflected by Werder goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka. The game seemed decided with Hlozek's goal. But Füllkrug scored from the penalty spot and made the final minutes of the game exciting again.