Football: Xabi Alonso's Leverkusen feels burden of hunted leader

As it was an inevitable must at this moment, Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso talked about his and his team's mental state

Berlin, Jan 29 (IANS) As it was an inevitable must at this moment, Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso talked about his and his team’s mental state. “If I get nervous now, I will be wrecked in May,” the 42-year-old Spanish star coach said. “We stay positive despite our first game without a goal; there might be more coming,” he added for a reason.

Alonso’s message in the first place was a message for his players and Bayern fans containing the fact, that the race for the 2024 German national title is a marathon-like issue.

For the first time, Leverkusen’s game turned to laborious while the first flight lead shrank to only two points ahead of rival Bayern Munich. Alonso felt the necessity to keep things calm and easy as he has learned in his career resilience is creating champions, reports Xinhua.

In time for the decisive encounter against the Bavarians on February 10 on home soil, on-loan striker Borja Iglesias is delivering a ray of hope. But the Betis Sevilla striker still needs to prove his skills after last weekend’s transfer deal.

The upcoming duel against bottom-side Darmstadt seems a more than welcome opportunity one week before crossing swords with Bayern. Despite dominating the goalless draw against Gladbach and having to replace reliable scorers such as injured Victor Boniface, scoring turned into a problem coming along with the unpleasant feeling of having to lose something.

The record-setting 69 contacts in the opponent’s box might be less concerning than the current performance trend for striker Patrik Schick and his teammates. Annoyance is increasing after 945:321 passes and 28 spoiled goal chances.

While Alonso mentioned “there are 15 games to go”, the German league’s only unbeaten side, well-equipped with skilful footballers, desperately needs a hungry box striker.

The Leverkusen coach is drawing hope and confidence out of his team’s stability, but at the same time feels the club’s inexperience when it comes to crunch-time issues. “Our plan is that Iglesias can help us right away. The game against Gladbach showed us we sometimes need a ruthless man in the box,” the Bayer coach stated.

The secondment for the Africa Cup of Nations and the Asia Cup have decreased the team’s quality as Edmond Tapsoba (Burkina Faso), Odilon Kossounou (Cote d’Ivoire), and Amine Adli (Morocco) have reached the last-16 round. Not to speak of the injuries of Exequiel Palacios and Boniface.

Nevertheless, there is no significant reason to lose faith, Alonso said, “as our game remains robust.” The more, the coach is determined to trigger the sureness to stay on track when staying calm and rely on the team’s strength.

For a while, the 2010 world champion and two-time Champions League winner has prepared for the upcoming crunch time including minor setbacks. To spread confidence and sovereignty is part of the so-far successful strategy.

“It’s part of the journey that you never win all games, but you need to know this doesn’t stop you,” the 2008 and 2012 European champion added.

–IANS

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