Xabi Alonso staying focused as Bayer Leverkusen face Fortuna Dusseldorf

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Leverkusen are battling for three trophies.

Bayer Leverkusen boss Xabi Alonso expects a “big challenge” as his side prepare to face second-tier Fortuna Dusseldorf in the DFB-Pokal semi-final.

The 42-year-old, who won the DFB-Pokal with Bayern Munich as a player in 2016, is now looking to do the same as a manager, with his team also top of the Bundesliga and into the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

And Alonso insists Leverkusen will not be looking to take their foot off the gas on Tuesday as they aim to lift the trophy for just the second time.

“It’ll be a big challenge tomorrow,” he told his club’s official website. “We’re definitely not going to take the game easy.

“Being in the final is the greatest thing for a footballer. For the club as well, it would be something we haven’t had too often. That’s why we want to take this final step tomorrow.

“It’ll be very intense. They’ve very flexible, can play with possession but can also be compact and look to counter. They’ll come here very excited, but same with us.”

Leverkusen are yet to be beaten in the league this term and a comeback victory over Hoffenheim mixed with Bayern Munich’s defeat to Dortmund at the weekend leaves them 13 points in front at the top of the table.

“We need the support of our fans tomorrow to take this big chance,” he added. “We can feel their excitement. It’s in the air.

“The fans want to go to Berlin, and so do we. We’ll give our all for that tomorrow.

“The cup final in Berlin is special. I have fond memories of it. The atmosphere is really special, almost comparable with a Champions League final. The players want that and we all want to experience it.”

Leverkusen will be boosted by the return of Exequiel Palacios and Victor Boniface.

Alonso said: “It’s a super situation. Everyone except Arthur is in.

“Boni has trained very hard and has proven a strong mentality to come back. He can hardly wait to be back on the pitch.”

Xabi Alonso staying focused as Bayer Leverkusen face Fortuna Dusseldorf

Leverkusen are battling for three trophies.

Bayer Leverkusen boss Xabi Alonso expects a “big challenge” as his side prepare to face second-tier Fortuna Dusseldorf in the DFB-Pokal semi-final.

The 42-year-old, who won the DFB-Pokal with Bayern Munich as a player in 2016, is now looking to do the same as a manager, with his team also top of the Bundesliga and into the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

And Alonso insists Leverkusen will not be looking to take their foot off the gas on Tuesday as they aim to lift the trophy for just the second time.

“It’ll be a big challenge tomorrow,” he told his club’s official website. “We’re definitely not going to take the game easy.

“Being in the final is the greatest thing for a footballer. For the club as well, it would be something we haven’t had too often. That’s why we want to take this final step tomorrow.

“It’ll be very intense. They’ve very flexible, can play with possession but can also be compact and look to counter. They’ll come here very excited, but same with us.”

Leverkusen are yet to be beaten in the league this term and a comeback victory over Hoffenheim mixed with Bayern Munich’s defeat to Dortmund at the weekend leaves them 13 points in front at the top of the table.

“We need the support of our fans tomorrow to take this big chance,” he added. “We can feel their excitement. It’s in the air.

“The fans want to go to Berlin, and so do we. We’ll give our all for that tomorrow.

“The cup final in Berlin is special. I have fond memories of it. The atmosphere is really special, almost comparable with a Champions League final. The players want that and we all want to experience it.”

Leverkusen will be boosted by the return of Exequiel Palacios and Victor Boniface.

Alonso said: “It’s a super situation. Everyone except Arthur is in.

“Boni has trained very hard and has proven a strong mentality to come back. He can hardly wait to be back on the pitch.”

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