Soccer-Leverkusen's Alonso ready to snap losing streak against Atalanta in Europa League final

  • Football
  • Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Soccer Football - Europa League - Bayer Leverkusen Training - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland - May 21, 2024 Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso during training REUTERS/Paul Childs

DUBLIN, Ireland (Reuters) - Bayer Leverkusen have been an unbeatable force this season and the Bundesliga champions will be looking to preserve that record as they bid to end a losing run against Atalanta in the Europa League final on Wednesday.

The Germans will play in a European final for the first time since they finished runners-up to Real Madrid in the 2002 Champions League final and they will be eager to snap a two-match losing streak against their Italian rivals.

Atalanta got the better of the Germans in both legs of their Europa League last 16 tie in 2022 and Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso knows his players cannot afford the kind of lapses in concentration that cost them dear two years ago.

However, as Leverkusen will be going into the final in Dublin's Aviva Stadium on the back of a formidable 51-match unbeaten streak in all competitions, Alonso is confident that they will be better prepared for the challenge that lies ahead as his players try and win the second title of a possible treble this season.

"In the last five years, Atalanta have always built on their ideas. They know what they want and are successful in Italy and Europe," Alonso, whose side will also feature in the German Cup final against Kaiserslautern on Saturday, told reporters.

"But we've had a lot of games in Germany against teams that play similarly. Tactics, intelligence and mentality will be required tomorrow.

"We need to make the most of space intelligently. And we also need to decide what tempo to play in what areas of the game."

Leverkusen broke Bayern Munich's 11-year title monopoly in Germany this season and their unbeaten run has earned them the moniker 'Neverlusen'.

However, Alonso insists that the record run has not changed their perspective on the final.

"When you go to the final you don't go there to make up the numbers, you go to win it. We will try and make one last effort," Alonso said.

"We'll prepare like we did for all the games before. We haven't lost in 51 games, so my boys know how to adapt to different situations. That also applies to the final.

"From the start of the campaign, we believed in our brand of football and that’s right at the heart of this successful run.”

Alonso also praised his Italian opponents, whose only chance of landing any silverware this season is in the Europa League following their loss to Juventus in the Coppa Italia final last week. They currently lie fifth in Serie A, which has already been won by Inter Milan.

"They have a great coach (Gian Piero Gasperini) and great players like Gianluca Scamacca and Charles De Ketelaere. It's an honour for me to be able to play against such a great team here tomorrow."

(Reporting by Tommy Lund in Gdansk, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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