10.08.2018Bayer 04

Final pre-season friendly in south-east Spain

The new season kicks off in nine days time. A week ahead of the Bundesliga opener at Gladbach (25 August), the Werkself have their first competitive match of the new campaign on Saturday 18 August. Bayer 04 are away to CfR Pforzheim in the DFB Cup. In the final pre-season friendly ahead of the Cup game against the Oberliga team from Baden-Württemberg, Heiko Herrlich's team face Champions League participants Valencia on Saturday (kick-off: 21.30 CET).

Head coach Heiko Herrlich, who along with his players will set off from Cologne airport on Saturday morning for the Iberian Peninsula, is looking for success in the friendly to kick-start the season. "I'd like to see the team perform well so we finish the pre-season in good shape," said the 46-year-old.

The Saturday night match should be entertaining: After two disappointing seasons with the departure of numerous top players and the threat of bankruptcy in the summer of last year, the 'Blanquinegros' ended the La Liga season on a high – just three points behind Real Madrid – in fourth place (points per game 1.9), which sees them return  to Europe's premier club competition this term. Thanks to numerous European titles, the club from the south-east of Spain are seen as one of the most successful teams in European club football – however, the last time the club tasted success in the European stage was winning the UEFA Cup in 2004.

Return to winning ways

One reason for the revival of the White and Blacks, with a bat on the club badge, is down to the coach Marcelino Garcia Toral, known as Marcelino, who has managed to reshape the team in a few months in spite of financial restrictions. The Brazilian relies on a healthy mix of older, mainly unknown pros and young talents from their own academy. Nevertheless, Valencia had the fourth best attack in Spain last season (65 goals) thanks to goals from the Brazilian Rodrigo (27 years old/16 goals), the Italian Simone Zaza (27/13) and the Spaniard Santi Mina (22/12). Beyond that, the squad is one of the youngest in Spain's top-flight with an average age of 25.3 years (as at 9 August 2018).

This will be the first time Bayer 04 have played the Spanish side since 2011. Back then the Black and Reds played Valencia in the group stage of the Champions League. After going a goal down at half-time, the Werkself came back to win 2-1 (with goals from André Schürrle and Sidney Sam) But the return match at the , 'Estadio Mestalla' ended in a 3-1 defeat (goal scored by Stefan Kießling). Lars Bender (pictured above in the game against Valencia at the BayArena) was the only player from the current Werkself squad in the starting line-up seven years ago.

A win on Saturday would see the Werkself start the season with a title win. The two teams meet in the 'Trofeo Naranja', an almost annual tradition  of summer cup organised by Valencia. 


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