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23.11.2016Champions League

Völler: 'On a good day we can compete with anyone'

7 from 11: The Werkself are back in amongst the top 16 best teams in Europe. The mood on the flight home from Moscow combined joy and relief...
© Bayer 04 Leverkusen Fussball GmbH

The plane was still on the runway at the Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow when the first sounds of celebration and palpable relief emanated from the seats on the flight: The Werkself players, management and staff followed the outcome of the match in Monaco live on their electronic devices with the pilot happy to wait for take-off. When the final whistle blew in the Principality with AS Monaco 2-1 up against Tottenham it was clear how crucial the point was for Bayer 04 in the 1-1 draw at CSKA Moscow.

Bayer 04 are guaranteed second place in Group E ahead of the final game against AS Monaco at the BayArena on 7 December. The three-point lead over Tottenham is enough given the head-to-head results against Spurs who remain unbeaten in the Premier League. The Werkself are back in the Champions League Round of 16 for the seventh time in eleven games – understandably, Rudi Völler was in the best of moods when the plane landed at Cologne/Bonn Airport. “Qualification for the Champions League is not a given for us so going through to the knockout is worth even more,” said the Bayer 04 sporting director.

The certainty of competing in the knockout rounds of Europe‘s premier club competition with a game to play in the group stage has certainly lifted the mood in the Leverkusen camp. “It was a tough group and a three-way battle between Monaco, Tottenham and us. Moscow dropped off a bit but there were no really weak teams in our group. We always believed the group would be settled on the final matchday. If anybody had said we would go through with a game to play then I would have signed up for it,” said Rudi Völler, “the key factor was our win in London that meant we got one over on Tottenham and put ourselves in a commanding position-“

Round of 16 draw on 12 December

Bayer 04 can now look forward to Monday 12 December when the Round of 16 draw is made. The Werkself will meet one of the seven winners of the other groups (Monaco are excluded as are all German) and play at home in the first. One possible opponent would be the English champions Leicester City. “Not everything went to plan in our group,” said Rudi Völler, “but on a good day we can compete with anyone,”

Praise for Leno

The media were keen to praise Bernd Leno after the 1-1 draw in. “Leno lets Leverkusen celebrate“ reads the Bild Zeitung headline: “Bayer are in the lucrative Round of the best 16 teams in Europe – because Germany keeper Bernd Leno produces a world class performance to save a point and show his true quality.” The Bayer 04 keeper earned top marks from the tabloid newspaper. The colleagues at the Express shared that view: “Thanks to Leno: Bayer in last sixteen!” The report continues: “Leno was on top of his game in the Moscow cold. High point on 69 minutes.: Golovin shoots from point blankrange, the ball slips through Leno’s legs, hits his heel and his bum and then rolls towards the goal. The national keeper reacts in a flash and smothers the ball. Heel, bum – Leno.”

© Bayer 04 Leverkusen Fussball GmbH

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