Simon Rolfes, what’s your assessment of the Werkself display at AS Roma on Thursday night and how do you see the situation in the Europa League semi-final after the 1-0 defeat to the team under José Mourinho?
Rolfes: We definitely suffered an unnecessary defeat. Our performance was really good at the start, very structured, full of pressing. If we had at least taken one of our two best chances then the game would definitely have been different. Roma would have had to open up and allow space for our fast transition play. It turned into a battle of attrition where the defences were on top. Now we are 1-0 down at half-time. Anything is still possible. We are definitely in a position to beat AS Roma with our fans behind us at the BayArena.
What was the atmosphere like in front of 60,000 spectators at the Stadio Olimpico?
Rolfes: A brilliant, exceptionally atmospheric experience, you have to say. There was a fascinating atmosphere for large stretches of the game which was down in a large part to our supporters. We had almost 3,000 fans there, in great spirits, almost all dressed in red – that was fantastic. We are very grateful for the support from our fans and there will be more than 2,000 in Stuttgart tomorrow. There’s been great support for the whole season, also in the difficult times. And in recent weeks we have again developed a special energy, an incredibly intense connection between fans and the team. We hope we can take this energy from the stands into the coming difficult games. Everybody will give their all, I’m sure of that.
Unfortunately, there was a problem with things being thrown at the Leverkusen section…
Rolfes: Nobody wants to see that. It’s a pity and an issue to sort out together with UEFA. I hope at least some of those who attacked our people can be discovered and taken to task.
Bayer 04 now go into the run-in without Robert Andrich, Odilon Kossounou and Karim Bellarabi. How much does that hurt?
Rolfes: The injuries obviously hurt us. I’m sorry for the players and we all hope they can quickly recover. But we have to live with that. You have to accept that, look after all the others, be focused and professional, recover well and look forwards. Now it’s about really coming together and showing a genuine team spirit. everybody counts at this moment, players, coaches, staff. We are in a very exciting phase and have – when you think where we’ve come from – a lot to win!
Is the role of the coach even more important now?
Rolfes: Xabi Alonso has huge experience in football, he knows everything. That’s an advantage. He conveys calm and confidence, creates trust. We have a good squad who we believe are capable everything. we want to and will treat every game like a final, full of anticipation and with passion and maximum commitment.
The Werkself could have five games up to the end of May with the highlight of the Europa League final in Budapest…
Rolfes: That’s the target and achieving that will reward us all. But step-by-step – Stuttgart will be difficult tomorrow and an important test. VfB are fighting against relegation with everything they have and they will push as all the way. Only after that can we concentrate on Roma again.
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The draw for the round of 16 of the 2023/24 UEFA Europa League was made on Friday, pairing Bayer 04 with Azerbaijani club Qarabag FK, who the Werkself already met in the group stage.Show more