Voeller relishing Leverkusen’s clash versus Spurs

Pochettino may call on rising star Son to shine against old club

Image Credit: Reuters
Bayer Leverkusen, including Javier Hernandez, centre, train yesterday ahead of their Champions League match against Tottenham Hotspur at the BayArena, Leverkusen, in Germany.
Gulf News

Leverkusen: Bayer Leverkusen boss Rudi Voeller promises his erratic German team will put up ‘a fight’ in Tuesday’s Champions League group stage match against high-flying Tottenham Hotspur.

After letting winning positions slip in their previous Group E fixtures, Leverkusen must be wary of Tottenham, the only team still unbeaten in England’s top flight this season.

Roger Schmidt’s Leverkusen face a Spurs side buoyed by Dele Alli’s last-gasp equaliser in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion, which extended the North London club’s unbeaten league run to eight matches.

Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham are second in the Champions League group after their 1-0 win at CSKA Moscow three weeks ago, the same night Bayer drew 1-1 at table leaders Monaco.

“I’m really looking forward to it. We’ll be playing in front of a full house against a very good team, who have yet to lose a game in the Premier League,” said Leverkusen’s sports director Voeller.

“We tend to do well against teams like that, we will put in a good fight and the fans will see a great game, hopefully with a win for us.”

Leverkusen have drawn both of their group stages games so far.

Having raced into a two-goal lead at home to CSKA Moscow, they allowed the Russians to come back to force a 2-2 draw with all four goals scored in the first half.

Likewise, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez gave Leverkusen a second-half lead at Monaco a fortnight ago, only for Kamil Glik to hit a 94th-minute equaliser with the host’s first shot of the game in a 1-1 draw.

Leverkusen’s Bundesliga form of late has been erratic.

An impressive 2-0 win at home to Borussia Dortmund and victory away to Mainz was sandwiched between defeats to strugglers Werder Bremen and mid-table Eintracht Frankfurt.

Pochettino says Spurs should have had more out of their draw with West Brom, which left them third in the Premier League, but says they will be ready for the game in Germany.

“We dominated the game, we created the better chances, but we have to be happy with the point and now get ready for Leverkusen on Tuesday,” said Pochettino, whose team lost 2-1 at home to Monaco in their opening game.

One of Leverkusen’s main tasks will be to contain Spurs’ star-studded attack which includes England forward Dele Ali, Argentina’s Erik Lamela and Son Heung-Min.

The South Korean international scored 29 goals in 87 appearances for Leverkusen between 2013 and 2015 before joining Spurs.

He was the Premier League’s Player of the Month for September and having played only the last 20 minutes of Spurs’ draw, the 24-year-old could be in line for a starting berth against his former club — especially as the match has come too quickly for striker Harry Kane.

Pochettino said: “The Champions League game on Tuesday is too soon for him (Kane) but maybe Monday he will start to train on the pitch.”

Danny Rose will be restored to the starting lineup in Leverkusen after being rested against West Brom. “After his injury he played against Manchester City and then it wasn’t in the plan to play two games with the national team,” Pochettino said. “But because [Ryan] Bertrand was injured, he had to play two games. “We don’t want to take risks. I think this is too much for a player coming from the injury to play two games in one week. For that [reason] we gave him a rest to be ready for the next two games.” With Toby Alderweireld out, the manager is likely to ask Eric Dier to partner Jan Vertonghen at centre-back. “The good thing about Eric is he can play like a midfielder and a centre-back, and can perform good in several positions,” Pochettino said. “That is important and we will see about the decision for Tuesday. It is one option more that we have.”