A good two weeks before the Bundesliga derby between league leaders Bayer Leverkusen and 1. FC Köln, there is already a lot of teasing between the two camps. After Bayer’s 4-0 win in the Europa League against BK Häcken, FC posted a photo of a relatively empty stand on X (formerly Twitter) and wrote: “Despite our help, it didn’t work.” was not sold out with 25,402 spectators, although the Cologne team had indirectly advertised heavily, according to their coach Steffen Baumgart.
Baumgart had referred to a post from Bayer at midday with which the club wanted to attract spectators to the game. In addition to questions like “Do you like watching good football?”, a social media tile also said: “Do you like following relegation battles?” And in brackets after it: “Then you’re probably a K*ln fan.”
Baumgart then explained: “You have to say that Leverkusen plays really good football. You’re right. And if you want to see something even more beautiful with more emotions and a full stadium where you don’t have to call for people to come, then come to us.” There is “a big club and there is a not so big club. I think we are the bigger club, even if it may seem different in terms of sport. FC stands above everything in this region. You can be UEFA Cup winner or runner-up 20 times. Don’t give a fuck.”
“That’s a bit of it”
Bayer Leverkusen’s club boss Fernando Carro tried to take some of the explosiveness out of the topic during half-time of the Häcken game. “I’m sorry if some people don’t feel comfortable with it,” he said on RTL: “But it’s also a little rivalry, and in football it’s a bit part of it.” He thought the post was “actually very good – man Maybe FC Köln could have been let out in the end. But I think we tweet 35,000 times a year. There can always be someone who might go a little over the mark.”
Before the last derby in Leverkusen at the beginning of May, there had already been public trouble between the two clubs. Bayer had requested an early postponement because of the upcoming Europa League semi-final, but Cologne complained that they had not been asked. In the end, FC won 2-1.
Leverkusen are finally at the top in terms of width – that was the most important finding after the 4-0 win against Häcken in the Europa League opener. After coach Xabi Alonso only made one change to the starting eleven in the four Bundesliga matchdays on the way to the top of the table, this time he replaced half the team. The five substitutions were followed by a real gala performance for at least half an hour before the game was already decided and Bayer was able to take things into gear.
“That was the goal before the season, that we have a broad squad so that we can be ready for three competitions,” said Alonso with satisfaction: “In the English weeks we won’t always be able to play with the same line-up.” He was “ “Satisfied with all the players who haven’t played from the start recently,” said Alonso, even if that now gives him a headache about the line-up before every game: “If there are a lot of options, it’s more difficult for me,” he said: “But better.”
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Defense chief Jonathan Tah also noted that “everyone who came in did really well. That gives us a good feeling ahead of the coming weeks with many games in which we have to be flexible and rotate.” While one or two failures had a noticeable impact on the quality of Leverkusen’s game in the previous season, there is now competition in almost all positions. Former national player Nadiem Amiri wasn’t even registered for the Europa League.
And even captain and goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky now has a challenger. The fact that the Czech Matěj Kovář, who came from Manchester United in the summer for around 3.5 million euros, was allowed to play against Häcken does not really open the fight for number one status. But it could be that the 23-year-old will at least become Bayer’s European Cup goalkeeper. “There is no definitive decision yet,” said Alonso: “That was a decision for this game. Lukas will be in goal again in the Bundesliga on Sunday. And we’ll see before the game in Norway.” Bayer have to play their second group game against Molde BK on October 5th.