Bayer 04 Leverkusen will want to provide another upset when FC Barcelona come calling.
By Mark Bennett
Leverkusen coach Klaus Toppmöller insisted his team would come out fully motivated in their opening Group A match against FC Barcelona in the BayArena. "Every match in the Champions League is special," he said. "The team understands the way I feel about these games and will do everything possible to win the match. We must be aggressive and ambitious, get the fans behind us and give them something to cheer about."
'Good start vital'
Toppmöller believes getting off to a quick start, particularly at home, could make the difference in a tough second-stage group which includes Newcastle United FC and Internazionale FC. He added: "Barcelona, Newcastle and Inter belong to the best teams their respective countries have to offer. They are all capable of winning games home and away, therefore it is vital we get off to a good start by winning our home game."
But Toppmöller has injury worries with Juan definitely ruled out and both Yildiray Bastürk and Zoltan Sebescen looking doubtful. Bayer are still missing long-term casualty Jens Nowotny, who will not be back until next year, while Toppmöller refused to comment on whether veteran, striker Ulf Kirsten, would return to the starting eleven. "I won't talk about my lineup because we want to surprise Barcelona if possible," he said.
'Suspect at the back'
To prepare for the match, Toppmöller travelled to Camp Nou to watch the game against Real Madrid CF at the weekend. "Barcelona look very dangerous up front and have got some classy players. Lately they have looked suspect at the back and that is what we have to exploit," he said.
Prove Van Gaal wrong
The 51-year old then claimed that his main goal was to prove Barcelona coach Louis van Gaal wrong. The Dutchman had insisted his side would continue their impressive Champions League campaign and win in the BayArena. "I wasn't pleased when I heard his comments," Toppmöller retorted. "On Wednesday evening we will see who is the better team."
Van Gaal struck a conciliatory note in his eve-of-match press conference, however. "Leverkusen are a good side and Klaus Toppmöller has done a good job. I like to watch sides in which all eleven players can play football and Bayer are such a team." Like Barcelona, though, they are in mid-table in their domestic league. "Both teams have struggled," said Barcelona full-back Michael Reiziger.
De Boer blow
Another worry for the Azulgrana rearguard is the absence of the injured Frank de Boer. With Toppmöller adamant that the defence was "Barcelona's weakest department", it might also be the main threat to the Catalans' 100 per cent record in the competition so far.