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Toppmöller alert to threat

Published: Tuesday 22 October 2002, 21.04CET
Bayer 04 Leverkusen coach Klaus Toppmöller knows Maccabi Haifa FC are eyeing an "upset".

Tournament statistics

LeverkusenM. Haifa

Goals scored14
Attempts on target58
Attempts off target86
Fouls committed192
Yellow cards23
Red cards0

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Published: Tuesday 22 October 2002, 21.04CET

Toppmöller alert to threat

Bayer 04 Leverkusen coach Klaus Toppmöller knows Maccabi Haifa FC are eyeing an "upset".

By Mark Bennett

After victory in their last UEFA Champions League Group F match against Maccabi Haifa FC in Nicosia, Bayer 04 Leverkusen coach Klaus Toppmöller wants another win against the Israeli side to give his team a realistic chance of reaching the second group stage.

'We won't underestimate Haifa'
Despite being confident that his team will be able to take the points on the night, Toppmöller downplayed suggestions in the media that victory was the only possible outcome. "We will pay Haifa the respect they deserve," he said. "They played well over the weekend and will be motivated. They are coming here to cause an upset. The international fixtures last week should be warning enough. England, Italy and Germany all had problems against the so-called smaller nations. We won't make the mistake of underestimating our opponents."

Two down
All Toppmöller's players are available for selection except long-term injury victim Jens Nowotny and Dimitar Berbatov, who suffered an ankle injury playing for Bulgaria last week. "Dimitar trained with the squad for the first time yesterday," Toppmöller said. "He is still in some pain and I don't want to take the risk of him picking up a worse knock because we will need him in the upcoming weeks."

Brazilians back
Toppmöller then broke with one of his old traditions. The 51-year-old usually refuses to comment on his own lineup before the match, but he said: "Both Juan and França will start. They are both fully fit. Franca looked very dangerous in training this week and could cause Haifa some problems at the back. You always have to watch him, especially in the penalty area."

Defensive dilemma
Meanwhile, Haifa's coach Yitzhak Schum said that defender Alon Harazi, who is recovering from a hamstring injury, will determine himself whether he is fit to face the German side. Schum, who is desperate to replace suspended Nigerian defender Eric Ejiofor, added: "I'll name Harazi only if he is 100 per cent fit, otherwise I will not take a chance.

'Long-term recovery'
"With all the respect we have towards Leverkusen, we still have to think about Harazi's long-term recovery and our progress in the league." Without Harazi and Ejiofor, Haifa's experienced coach is considering naming either Adoram Keisi or Eyal Almoshnino alongside Arik Benado at the heart of defence.

'Ayegbeni the man'
Despite the visitors' problems at the back, Toppmöller expects them to be dangerous, especially up front. "Nigerian striker Yakubu Ayegbeni is already on numerous clubs’ shopping list and is extremely talented. He is very clever considering that he is only 19. We will certainly have to watch him."

Last updated: 02/02/12 4.27CET