Advertisement

Leverkusen shift focus to imminent league title after West Ham game

Leverkusen's Jonas Hofmann (L) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and West Ham United at BayArena. Federico Gambarini/dpa

Bayer Leverkusen had one last mission before they could finally shift their focus completely to the weekend, when the club can claim their first-ever Bundesliga title.

The first leg of their Europa League quarter-finals tie against West Ham on Thursday was a tense one. Not only because of the anticipation for the league title, but also because the two goals of the 2-0 victory were scored late in the game.

Now unbeaten in all of their 42 season matches and a record-equalling 28 in the Bundesliga in 2023-24, the team led by coach Xabi Alonso will be crowned champions if they beat Werder Bremen at home on Sunday.

The title could come the day before if Bayern Munich and VfB Stuttgart lose their matches against Cologne and Eintracht Frankfurt, respectively.

But Alonso doesn't want to celebrate such historic achievement from the couch.

"If we become champions on Saturday, on the sofa, that would be a big surprise for me. To be honest, I would rather celebrate the victory on the pitch," he said in a news conference on Friday.

"Of course we want to celebrate here at home with our fans. I have confidence the team will play with focus and earn the win."

Alonso had never coached a first team before arriving at Leverkusen in 2022 from Real Sociedad's reserves and the league title would be his first major success as coach.

"It's special that we have the chance to become champions. But to do that we want to be focused and perform with our quality and mentality," he said.

Midfielder Jonas Hofmann, who scored the first goal against West Ham in the 83rd minute, echoed Alonso's words about winning the title before playing.

"When you become German champions for the first time ever, you don't want to do that at home on the couch with a glass of water one day before you play your own game," he said.

"You can't let the emotions flow if you're not together with the group, with which you achieved that. It's much more beautiful when you're together with the group. That's why I'm crossing my fingers for Bayern and Stuttgart," Hofmann added.

Not only this would be the maiden Bundesliga triumph for Leverkusen and first title overall since a German Cup success in 1993, but it will also put an end to Bayern's record run of 11 consecutive league wins.

Hofmann stressed, however, the squad must remain calm ahead of the game and praised the fans, who are on the verge of witnessing history being made at their own stadium.

"We've been experiencing how the fans are there for us for a few weeks now. Everyone has goosebumps. We have to stay calm. Given what can happen on Sunday and that we can make history, it all sounds so great," he said.

Midfielder Granit Xhaka also praised the fans, saying the support during the match against West Ham "was again unbelievable."

"Of course, we know what can happen on Sunday. We have to play our game and not be over-motivated," he warned.

Leverkusen's Jonas Hofmann (3rd R) scores his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and West Ham United at BayArena. Federico Gambarini/dpa
Leverkusen's Jonas Hofmann (3rd R) scores his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and West Ham United at BayArena. Federico Gambarini/dpa