11.10.2022Champions League

Alonso: ‘I sense great motivation in the team’

A wealth of Champions League experience in the dugout: Xabi Alonso can look back at 119 appearances in Europe's premier club competition during his playing career, the Spaniard has twice won the Champions League, with Liverpool in 2005 and Real Madrid in 2014. The 40-year-old returns to the Champions League on Wednesday 12 October (kick-off: 21.00 CEST) but for the first time as a coach. Ahead of the home game against Porto, Alonso and Jonathan Tah talked about the past few days, a player sidelined for the Portuguese champions and a score to settle.

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Xabi Alonso had three training sessions after the 4-0 win against Schalke 04 in his first Bundesliga in charge to get his team ready for the Champions League home game against Porto. "We have analysed the last game in detail (2-0 defeat, ed.). Porto have a very intense style of play and a very compact in defence. We'll need another top performance," said the 2010 World Cup winner who paid great respect to his opposite number Sergio Conceicao: "He is the leader of that team and the whole club, his approach is securely embedded at FC Porto."

Looking at his own team, Alonso has witnessed an extremely focused and concentrated approach in the last few training sessions. The Spaniard added: "The mood is good and preparations are going to plan. I sense great motivation and excitement ahead of the night amongst the players and their desire to test themselves at the highest level."

Tah: Wind of change, new Incentives

It's been a week since Xabi Alonso took over the helm from Gerardo Seoane. "Turbulent days," as Jonathan Tah described it at the press conference on Tuesday afternoon. Asked about the improvement in performance in the home game against Schalke 04, the 26-year-old central defender explained: "The new coach has watched as from afar and was able to make his own, new assessment of everything. So this automatically brings new incentives and a wind of change."


The Werkself were compact and organised as a team in the match against Schalke 04. The same is required for the game against Porto to "settle the score" from the previous meeting. Tah: "Of course, there are lots of areas where we need to improve. The important thing is all of us are accepting responsibility again – on and off the pitch. We're expecting a difficult game against a strong opponent."

Porto missing Pepe for Leverkusen clash

While the Werkself will have to manage without the suspended Jeremie Frimpong (two yellow cards in the last game) and Robert Andrich (three yellow cards), the visitors from the north-western Portugal are travelling to the Rhineland without key defender Pepe. The stalwart is sidelined with a knee injury he picked up in training. That rules out a reunion for the 39-year-old Porto captain with Xabi Alonso, who both played for Real Madrid between 2009 and 2014. "We know what great significance Pepe has for the team with his special personality and charisma," said Alonso on Tuesday. I wish him a speedy recovery."

Alonso: "the best competition"

The Werkself will again be able to rely on great support from the stands in the second Champions League home game of the current season: Over 28,500 spectators are expected. Head coach Xabi Alonso is looking forward to that in his first outing as a coach in Europe's premier club competition: "The atmosphere, the floodlights, the fans – the Champions League simply is and remains the best competition. And we want to be part of it for as long as possible."


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