Europa League: “Drink blood every morning”: Bayer pushes into the final

They haven’t lost a game in 51 games this season. That’s why they at Bayer Leverkusen believe they can win the last two. Especially since Florian Wirtz is fit in time.

They are ready for the triple and the last two chapters of a German football fairytale: Bayer Leverkusen goes into the Europa League final on Wednesday against Atalanta Bergamo (9 p.m. / RTL) with almost overflowing self-confidence.

“Finals are for winning,” said team leader Granit Xhaka in a firm voice and laughingly explained the supposed secret of Bayer’s success: “We drink blood every morning.” Goal scorer Patrik Schick said: “We can create something that all fans around the world will remember forever.”

Schick was even asked whether the German champions were currently the best team in the world. “It’s hard to say when you’re not playing in the Champions League,” said the Czech with a laugh: “So let’s wait until next year. But I would say that we are the strongest team in Europe.”

And as such, the invincibles from Bayer are of course favorites in the final in Dublin. “We haven’t lost in 51 games. So call us favorites,” said Schick: “We’re currently in a good flow. But it’s a final, that’s something special.” Atalanta is also very strong. “But they also have it in their minds that we go into this game with 51 games without defeat.”

Wirtz fit in time

According to sports director Simon Rolfes, Bayer is going into the game “with a good mix of tension and relaxedness”: “We have achieved the most important goal, the championship trophy. Now we can give it our all. The goal is to win both finals.”

The most important news before departure: National player Florian Wirtz, who has just been named “Bundesliga Player of the Season”, will be able to take part from the start. “He will be in top shape,” said Rolfes: “And we need him too. He is a difference player who inspires everyone, including the neutral fans.” Wirtz suffered a blow to his thigh during the game against Borussia Dortmund on April 21st, which has limited him greatly since then. As in every cup game, the regular substitute keeper Matej Kovar will be in goal. It is still unclear whether captain and goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky might get the cup final on Saturday against Kaiserslautern.

Revenues of 40 million euros await

Leverkusen received around 12,000 tickets for the club’s third European final after winning the UEFA Cup in 1988 and losing the Champions League in 2002. Many fans will then travel straight on to the DFB Cup final in Berlin, where almost twice as many will be allowed to attend. If Bayer wins the final and also plays the European Super Cup against Borussia Dortmund or Real Madrid, total revenue of over 40 million euros is in store.

In the previous rounds, Bayer showed above all morale and steadfastness, scoring four goals in stoppage time in the four games of the quarter- and semi-finals. Three of them through Schick. “If it happened again in the final, it would of course be something very special,” he said: “But we don’t want to wait until stoppage time. We want to sort it out sooner.” Especially against this Atalanta. “In the Bundesliga, opponents are sometimes exhausted after 80 minutes because of the way we play against them. But that certainly won’t happen to them.”

In general, the toughness of the Italians is what earns Leverkusen the most respect. Especially since AS Roma coach Daniele De Rossi explained after the semi-final defeat against Bayer: “If there is a team that can hold a candle to Leverkusen in terms of physicality, structure and attitude, then it is Gasperini’s Atalanta.” Schick, who played with Roma against Atalanta years ago under coach Gian Piero Gasperini, remembers: “They still have the same coach as back then. They play one-on-one all over the pitch and don’t give you any room to breathe.”

Adli: “It’s hard to play against us”

For Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso, the Lombards are “one of the toughest opponents in Europe. They have a great mentality and a coach who knows what he wants.” Alonso also viewed the videos from the 2022 round of 16, in which Bergamo prevailed with two wins against the Bayer team coached by his predecessor Gerardo Seoane. “They have the same coach, a lot of players from back then and Mitch Bakker, who played with us last year,” said Alonso: “It’s an opponent we know well. Nothing new. But we’re a different team now .”

Offensive player Amine Adli also vividly remembers the two games in March 2022. “Those were two of the toughest games I have ever experienced,” said the Frenchman: “They are really good. They run a lot and are really good tactically. But we’re also very strong this year and it’s tough to play against us.”

And the final in front of the eyes of all of football Europe is also a huge opportunity for Bayer. “This is a European final. And you can see that in all the attention in the last few days,” Rolfes told the German Press Agency: “The championship was the club’s longing goal and that’s why it is something very special. But a European final is also a really big number.”

The expected lineups:

Atalanta Bergamo: Musso – Scalvini, Hien, Djimsiti – Zappacosta, Pasalic, Ederson, Ruggeri – de Ketelaere, Koopmeiners – Scamacca

Bayer Leverkusen: Kovar – Kossounou, Tah, Tapsoba – Stanisic, Palcios, Xhaka, Grimaldo – Frimpong, Wirtz, Tella

Referee: István Kovács (Romania)


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