Xabi Alonso learned lessons from defeat against AS Roma: 'Made it a virtue'

Bayer Leverkusen faces off on Thursday evening against the second-to-last team that defeated them. Over a year ago, AS Roma knocked out the Werkself in the semifinals of the Europa League, and now they meet again in the same stage of the same tournament. Coach Xabi Alonso is aware that the situation this time is different.

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"A lot has changed since last year's double encounter (1-0, 0-0) against AS Roma both for us and for them," reflected Xabi Alonso during a press conference.

He emphasized the dynamic shifts both teams have undergone in the intervening year. "There are new people involved with both teams. The playing styles have also changed somewhat. Daniele De Rossi’s influence is clearly visible. AS Roma’s style of play has evolved under the coach."

Last year, Leverkusen faced setbacks over two matches against the Romans, yet despite these challenges, they remain unbeaten this season, a testament to their resilience and strategic evolution. Alonso conveyed a cautious optimism: "The desire to reach the final is definitely there. It's our second chance after last season, but we know it's going to be difficult. AS Roma has shown their strength in the Europa League several times this season."

With ambitions high, Leverkusen is not just eyeing the Europa League trophy but is also in contention for a treble, having already secured the league title and with the German Cup final in sight. "We want to win the Europa League," Alonso declared with conviction, viewing last season’s defeat not as a setback but as a catalyst for improvement. "Last year, we had a unique opportunity and an excellent team to reach the final. It was painful to be eliminated, but we have turned that pain into a virtue."

Leveraging last year’s disappointments, Alonso has meticulously analyzed the shortcomings that led to their exit and used these insights to enhance their strategy in the new season. As a result, Leverkusen has maintained an unbeaten streak in all official competitions this year. The team is headed to Rome with a fit squad, buoyed by the news that key players such as Jonathan Tah, Adam Hlozek, and Borja Iglesias are all available for selection, dispelling any doubts about their readiness.

The memory of their last defeat in an official match still lingers against VfL Bochum, who handed them a 3-0 loss on the final day of the Bundesliga. This serves as a reminder of the unpredictable nature of football and the need for constant vigilance and adaptation. Alonso's approach reflects a deep understanding of the highs and lows of the sport and a clear strategy to steer his team towards achieving their lofty ambitions.

Updated: 01:48, 2 May 2024

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