"This week we all want to get back on track together and make sure we're 100% fit. And next week we'll focus on the game against Bayern." Heiko Herrlich has laid down the approach for the Werkself in the short phase before the restart of the Bundesliga with the cracker of a fixture against the league leaders from Munich on Friday 12 January. There are two friendlies in addition to the sessions at the training ground at the BayArena. The first is on Friday (14.00 CET, Haberland Stadium) against second division SpVgg Greuther Fürth followed by the match against third division Preußen Münster on Saturday (14.00 CEt, Haberland Stadium). And there is a special service for all Bayer 04 fans unable to be at the games: Both matches will be broadcast live on bayer04.de and Facebook.
Heiko Herrlich has already announced he wants to give all his players match practice in the two friendlies as far as is possible. "I will pick two different teams. Ideally, all players will get 90 minutes on the pitch," said the Werkself coach. Following the return of Wendell and Lucas Alario on Wednesday, with both completing full training, Charles Aránguiz and Leon Bailey have also returned from their winter breaks. Benny Henrichs, who suffered a bruised foot in the DFB Cup game at Borussia Mönchengladbach, was only able to complete an individual training session and is unlikely to feature in the friendlies. "We don't want to take any risks with him and we'll take it day by day," declared Herrlich.
Friday's match against Fürth brings a reunion with Roberto Hilbert. The 33 year-old stalwart and right back played 58 Bundesliga games for Bayer 04 from 2013 to 2017 before moving on to the Bavarian club in the summer. In addition to Hilbert, there are two other men at the club, currently next to bottom in the second division, who used to be at Leverkusen: The winger Khaled Narey (23) came through the youth ranks at Bayer 04, and Fürth's head coach Damir Buric was assistant to Robin Dutt at the Werkself in 2011/12. The 53-year-old Croat (pictured above with Stefan Kießling) took over in September after Janos Radoki was dismissed.
Also in danger of relegation – albeit in a tier below in the third division –are Preußen Münster, third bottom in the table at the winter break. The former giants from East Westphalia parted company with coach Benno Möhlmann two weeks before Christmas with Marco Antwerpen taking charge (formerly at Viktoria Köln). The club won their major honours over 50 years ago: In 1951 Preußen reached the German Championship final, and they were founder members of the Bundesliga in 1963. A nice footnote: The club made their Bundesliga debut in front of 38,000 fans at a sold-out Preußen Stadium against Hamburg SV (1-1) – the first capacity crowd in the history of the Bundesliga was at Münster. Back then, the Preußen team included Manfred Rummel, who passed away last year, and he was the coach who took the Werkself to the second division in 1975. Münster and Bayer 04 were rivals in the Second Division North from 1975 to 1979.
Bayer 04 welcomed 14 media representatives from Africa on Friday, 1 December. The trip for journalists from the likes of Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mozambique, Togo, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Togo was organised by the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) with the goal of establishing and promoting Africa as a new target market for the Bundesliga.Show more
Bayer 04 has modernised its media working area in the stands at the BayArena and equipped it with new, multifunctional monitors. The 50 screens will be used for the first time for the fixture against Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 13 in the Bundesliga next Sunday, 3 December (kick-off: 17:30 CET) and offer the media representatives working at the BayArena on matchday numerous possibilities.Show more
Bayer 04 have little time to recover from their 2-0 win away at Häcken in the UEFA Europe League, ensuring progress to the round of 16, before their next challenge up against Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga on Sunday (17:30 CET). At his pre-match press conference on Friday morning, head coach Xabi Alonso spoke about BVB and gave a warning about not losing focus.Show more
Spirits are high at Borussia Dortmund following their impressive display and result away at AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday. On Sunday (17:30 CET), they want to keep an impressive week going with another scalp in Leverkusen. Here’s the lowdown on our next opponents.Show more