Xabi Alonso is very fond of manual work in football. The Bayer Leverkusen coach would like to constantly push his players back and forth on the pitch like magnets on the tactics board. However, the Spaniard's long arm does not reach that far. It usually remains with a pantomime in the coaching zone. The fact that those who are on the pitch at least understand the movements of their coach well has been proven often enough. Under Alonso, Leverkusen have risen from the bottom of the Bundesliga table to the top and reached the semi-finals of the Europa League on the international stage – in just over half a year.
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The last three games of the Bundesliga season will show whether there will be any further progress in the most important national tableau. Whether or not it can even go to the throne in the second most important international competition may be decided in the next game. After the 0-1 defeat at AS Roma on Thursday at the Stadio Olimpico, the advantage after the first game lies with the Italians. Edoardo Bove scored the only goal of the evening in the 62nd minute. The second leg will take place on Thursday (21:00 CET in the F.A.Z. live ticker for the Europa League and on RTL) in Leverkusen.
The half-time deficit in the duel for a place in the final on 31 May in Budapest, in which the other participant is still open after Juventus' 1-1 draw with Sevilla in the other semi-final, is not Bayer's only concern. In the evening in the seething arena in the center of the capital on the Tiber, three more were added. Leverkusen's Odilon Kossounou, Jeremie Frimpong and Robert Andrich suffered more or less serious injuries. It is currently uncertain whether they will be ready for the decisive game against Roma in a week's time.
"It doesn't look good"
As things stand, the fast winger Frimpong still has the best chances. "He got something in the first half, at the end again," said sporting director Simon Rolfes at a late hour in Rome. He is expected to stay in Italy, where the Bundesliga club's entourage will stay and recover this Friday. On Saturday, the Leverkusen team will travel directly from Rome to Stuttgart, where the third-to-last game of the Bundesliga season is scheduled for Sunday (15:30 CET in the F.A.Z. live ticker for the Bundesliga and on DAZN).
The other two ailing professionals, however, will travel back home on Friday to be examined and treated. Things don't look good at all for defender Kossounou, who had to be replaced in the first half. He grabbed his right thigh after an action in his own penalty area and left the pitch limping after a long treatment. "With Odi, maybe it's a little bit more," Rolfes said. Alonso, like his sporting director himself used to be a professional from the highest level, also has "a bit of worries. It doesn't look good."
The same applies to midfielder Andrich, who had the first big chance to score after just 43 seconds in the game. After being brought in from outside, he was free to shoot in the penalty area. But it came too centrally on the goalkeeper. Florian Wirtz also missed in Leverkusen's good opening phase, when he also got into a good shooting position after a double pass, but narrowly missed. Andrich was driven out of the stadium on a golf cart in the evening. "He had a feeling in his left foot. We have to wait for the tests," said coach Alonso. A failure of the stabilizer would affect Bayer.