Alonso wants to avoid overtime in the playoffs

Coach Xabi Alonso wants to avoid overtime in the Europa League with Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen and get to the round of 16 as quickly as possible.

“We want to progress as quickly as possible,” said the coach before the third group game against Karabakh Agdam from Azerbaijan (Thursday, 9 p.m./DAZN), given the fact that Leverkusen could now do that after four games instead of eight. “The first goal is to qualify,” he said: “The second is to win the group. And in the next two games we have the key to that.”


Last year’s semi-finalists started with two wins, but so did the Azerbaijanis. Should Leverkusen win the following direct duels, group victory would be assured after four out of six games, unless one team wins both games in the games between Molde and Häcken. The first group goes straight into the round of 16, the second has to go into the playoffs against a relegated team from the Champions League. “If we come first, we have one lap less and more time,” said Alonso.


The former world and European champion will probably rotate again for the game against Agdam, but he did not reveal to what extent. What is certain is that substitute goalkeeper Matej Kovar will also be preferred to captain Lukas Hradecky in the third group game. However, Alonso explained that he is still not the Werkself’s official cup goalkeeper: “We’ll continue to decide from game to game.”

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