The conditions for the start of the New Year could hardly have been better: Over 100 Werkself fans took advantage of the good weather to watch the training session led by Xabi Alonso. Before the Bayer 04 head coach started with a warm-up routine, the Werkself players welcomed teammate Exequiel Palacios with loud applause – and, of course, the obligatory guard of honour from all the players, coaches and members of staff. The 24-year-old was the only player in the Bundesliga to win the 2022 World Cup in Qatar with Argentina just before Christmas. The midfielder is now back in Leverkusen.
20 outfield players and three goalkeepers took part in the first, 75-minute session of the New Year on the training ground at the BayArena. Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Patrik Schick and Joshua Eze worked on their own, and Daley Sinkgraven missed out due to illness. The warm-up routine was followed by practice matches in restricted space and passing drills.
"I think we’ll be able to feel the effects of the first session in our legs tomorrow," said skipper Lukas Hradecky with a smile following the training session. The Finn added: "We’ve all come back in a good mood and we're ready to work hard. We want to improve on the last six months. We are going to give 100 per cent in the coming weeks."
While the Werkself keeper was fielding questions, Bayer 04 fans had gathered at the exit of the training ground for selfies plus autographs with Mitchel Bakker and Co. World Cup winner Palacios was particularly popular. One young fan came up with a bright idea and brought a replica World Cup with him – to be able to get a special photo with the Argentinian. Palacios was also in demand with the members of the media present.
After showering and lunch, Palacios was then given a rousing reception from the Bayer 04 members of staff at the BayArena. Sporting managing director Simon Rolfes presented the World Cup winner with a gift and the Werkself player joined in with the group photo.
The Werkself will complete preparations over the winter break in Leverkusen rather than away on a winter training camp. Head coach Xabi Alonso will hold daily sessions with his players this week ahead of the friendly against Venezia on Saturday 7 January (kick-off: 15.00 CET). All the training sessions are currently open but may be subject to late changes. The training session on Wednesday 4 January starts at 10.30 CET with the rest of sessions in week beginning at 11.00 CET. The Werkself have Sunday off.
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