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31.10.2021Bayer 04

#RoadtoGlasgow – 'Rank outsiders' in the next 'cut-throat group'

The draw for the next round took place at the Hilton Hotel in Geneva on 2 November 2001 two days after the final group matches. Bayer 04 would again face three opponents in a second group stage. And it was clear they would be of no less stature and quality than Barcelona and Lyon were in the initial group stage.
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Nevertheless, the Leverkusen management appeared somewhat taken aback after the draw by the high quality of teams they would be facing: Juventus, Arsenal and Deportivo La Coruna. That needed to be absorbed for starters. General manager Reiner Calmund, who was naturally at the event in Geneva, quickly found the right words and he was able to identify the positives: "Of course, it's a cut-throat group. But it’s great to face top opponents with their many stars. So, we are looking forward to these crackers."

 

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the who's who of the football elite

The quality of the opposition read like a Who's Who of the European football elite. To name but a few: Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry played for Arsenal; Gianluigi Buffon, Lilian Thuram, Gianluca Zambrotta, Edgar Davids, Pavel Nedved, Alessandro del Piero and David Trezeguet for Juventus; Fran, Mauro Silva, Valeron, Roy Makaay and Diego Tristan were at Deportivo La Coruna.

Asked about his assessment of Group D, Klaus Toppmöller provided a short and sharp response: "We are the rank outsiders." On the same weekend, the coach sent his scouts to Italy and Spain to take a closer look at Juventus and Deportivo in their league matches. Juventus finished top of their group with some effort ahead of Porto, Celtic and Rosenborg. No wonder the Juve coach Roberto Bettega was not full of joy after the draw: "A very difficult group. Bayer Leverkusen and Deportivo La Coruna definitely shouldn't be underestimated."

"Arsenal – it's brilliant"

Bayer 04 had never met any of the forthcoming opponents on the European stage before. And there was another first: The Werkself had never played an English team before. That was a particular joy to Ulf Kirsten: "I've never played in England before and now against Arsenal – it's brilliant." Carsten Ramelow was also particularly excited by the prospect of the first game in England. "Just being able to experience the atmosphere at Highbury is something special."

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The Werkself fans also agreed with that analysis. Accordingly, there was a great demand for away tickets for that match. But there was time enough before that. Another famous stadium awaited first, namely the Delle Alpi in Turin. However, the fans did not see anything there at all at first. More on that in the next episode of the #RoadToGlasgow.

The second group stage fixtures:
29 November 2001: Juventus vs Bayer 04
4 December 2001: Bayer 04 vs Deportivo La Coruna
19 February 2002: Bayer 04 vs Arsenal
27 February 2002: Arsenal vs Bayer 04
12 March 2002: Bayer 04 vs Juventus
20 March 2002: Deportivo La Coruna vs Bayer 04

second group round: a "short-term" Reform

Why was there a second group stage 20 years ago? The reason was the expansion policy of the European football's governing body. UEFA increased the number of participants for the Champions League from 24 to 32 teams in the 1999/2000 season. In the two seasons before there were six groups of four teams with these six top sides and the two best second-placed teams qualifying for the quarter-finals. The reform of this structure not only brought an enormous increase in finance but also big problems with setting fixtures.

In the second year after the reform many clubs experienced a significant decline in attendances for the matches in the second round. TV broadcasters feared a decline in viewing figures and the players were at the limit of their physical capabilities. To get to the final required playing 17 matches. The clubs increasingly criticised the structure. In the summer of 2002, the executive committee of UEFA decided to reform the reform. From the 2003/04 season, the Champions League would be played without a second group round with the quarter-finals immediately following the group stage. The finalists would therefore only have to play 13 instead of 17 games. 

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