Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the World Cup qualifiers in South America due to be played in the spring were postponed. To catch up with those games, FIFA have extended the international breaks in September and October by two days each. That has negative consequences for Bayer 04: Because three Werkself players are set to play for their national teams in the night from Thursday to Friday, Charles Aránguiz, Exequiel Palacios and Piero Hincapie are not available for the Bundesliga home game against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday, 11 September.
"The risk of injury is simply too high. There is just one day between the games," said head coach Gerardo Seoane in explaining why he will have to manage without the trio who are only expected back in Germany at the weekend. "It's definitely a first that players are not available to us for that reason," added the Swiss but the term "distortion of competition" went too far. "Of course, we understand the matches have to be rearranged. Particularly as the players are very proud to be able to play for their countries but that's very annoying for us." At the same time, Seoane is confident that he will be able to feel a good side without the trio in the match against the DFB Cup winners. "We have strength in depth in our squad. We'll manage."
As the South American internationals will be missing, Lucas Alario and Karim Bellarabi could be an option for the #B04BVB squad. The two forwards were recently sidelined with muscle injuries but the next few days offer the opportunity for the duo "to be brought back to the team," added Seoane. And the international break is not inconvenient for Amine Adli. "Here we have the chance to integrate him into the team," declared the Werkself head coach.
In addition, the international break offers an opportunity for youth players to get experience with the senior squad. One of them is Iker Bravo. The 16-year-old striker, recently captain of the Spain U17 team, joined Bayer 04 from Barcelona in the summer. He regularly trains and plays with the Bayer 04 U19 team but this week he can demonstrate his quality against Jonathan Tah and Co. Gerardo Seoane: "Iker is a real goal-getter. You can immediately see how well he's been trained."
At least two steps further on is Moussa Diaby, who came to Leverkusen in 2019 as a France U20 international. At Bayer 04, he first played for the France U21s and now he has been called up by France coach Didier Deschamps to the Equipe Tricolore for the first time. For Gerardo Seoane that it's also due to the recent development of the Werkself number 19. Before, Moussa was "offensively dominant" but now he is very much more "of a team player. The way he helped Frimpong in Augsburg – that was impressive," said the head coach.
They were opponents in the Bundesliga but now they are working together: Stefan Kießling is supporting the Gerald Asamoah Foundation for children suffering from heart conditions. At the start of the week, the Werkself honorary captain signed a cargo bike, an electric bike, which Werner Messing is using to travel from one Bundesliga club to the next Bundesliga club to collect autographs from current and former Bundesliga stars. Afterwards, the vehicle will be auctioned to raise funds for the Gerald Asamoah Foundation. When Stefan Kießling was asked if he was available then the Bundesliga top scorer of 2013 said yes straight away. "I just hope a lot of money can be raised. The children need that. Here is a link to the campaign.
They used to play on the wings for the Werkself and now they have found new clubs. Bastian Oczipka came through the youth ranks at Bayer 04 for nine years and then made 12 appearances for the first team. Last season, the 32-year-old was relegated from the Bundesliga with Schalke 04 but now he is back in the top-flight: Bastian Oczipka, who has played 286 Bundesliga games, penned a deal with Union Berlin.
He joined the Werkself on loan from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2020 just before the end of the transfer window: Right-back Santiago Arias made a good impression in training immediately and made a promising debut in the Bundesliga in the 1-1 draw at Stuttgart. During the following international break he was seriously injured playing for his home country of Colombia and was unable to play for the Werkself again. The likeable 29-year-old is now making a new start at the Spanish top-flight club FC Granada.
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