Alonso ahead of #B04BVB: An opponent with “individual quality and a good coach”

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.

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“We’ve achieved our initial goal in the Europa League. Finishing first in the group was very important,” Alonso stressed, looking back on Thursday’s result in Sweden. The Spaniard had made use of his squad and fielded a number of young players, handing Gustavo Puerta his first Bayer 04 start and Europa League debuts for Noah Mbamba and Ayman Aourir. “There needs to be a target for young players. They’ve fought for it and earned it,” the 42-year-old stated. And when asked about Patrik Schick’s goal and the ensuring celebrations, he added: “The whole team and backroom staff were pleased for him. He was out injured for a long time and is now fit again. We now need him.”

Sold-out BayArena against Dortmund

Turning attentions to Sunday, Dortmund come into the weekend in fourth place on 24 points – 10 behind leaders Leverkusen. It’s set to be an exciting encounter. “They’re a direct rival. We have to win in the battle for places at the top. We’re expecting a good game with a great atmosphere,” Alonso said looking ahead to the excellent atmosphere the Werkself can once again expect. All 30,210 tickets have been sold, meaning the BayArena will be full once more.

However, the Spanish coach didn’t want to place too much importance on the game, instead stressing, “It’s a top game but there’s a long way to go till May. The goal is three points, no matter who against. We always focus on ourselves and take things one game at a time in this phase. We need to be well prepared against Dortmund and play with concentration.”

Like Leverkusen, Borussia are also in the midst a busy spell to close out the year. Both teams have six more games before Christmas, with BVB also set to face VfB Stuttgart and RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga. The Black-Yellows beat AC Milan 3-1 away during the week in the Champions League to book their place in the knockout rounds but still have a final group game at home to Paris Saint-Germain to come. “Dortmund have achieved their goal. They’re a top team with lots of individual quality and a good coach,” Alonso said in his assessment.

“We’re optimistic” for Wirtz

Bayer 04 are the only team across Europe’s top five leagues yet to lose a competitive game this season, winning 18 out of 19 fixtures across competitions. However, Alonso once again warned of being overly confident: “It’s nice but not a goal. It’s a result of our work. We’re not thinking about it.” On the subject of Florian Wirtz’s fitness after he sat out the Häcken game with a slight muscular problem, the coach stated: “He already feels better. We’re now focused on his complete recovery by Sunday. We’re optimistic but have to wait and see.”

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