Ahead of their Bundesliga opening game on Saturday (18:30 CEST) against Bayer Leverkusen, Dieter Hecking and sporting director Max Eberl discussed some key topics during a press conference.
Dieter Hecking on…
… the expectations for the new Bundesliga season: The difference this season is that we’ll be solely focussing on the match directly in front of us from week to week. With that in mind, I’m concerned with nothing but the Leverkusen fixture right now. I’m looking forward to the game, it’s a mini derby. With the squad they have at the moment, they’re a clear candidate for a Champions League spot. Even though we’ve done everything we can to prepare for the tie, it will certainly be a big challenge for us.
… the conclusions drawn from the Pokal game: In Hastedt, the team put into practise everything that we’d worked on in training. We played with freedom and scored a lot of goals. I would have liked to have kept a clean sheet, but we won’t begrudge Hastedt their consolation. It’s dangerous territory to read too much into that game. It’s very likely that Saturday will prove a stern test. However, if we play with the same level of freedom and creativity, we can definitely cause Leverkusen problems. In any case, we won’t get the same amount of chances as we did last weekend.
… the team news: At last I’m in the fortunate position of having a lot of depth in the squad and being able to choose an XI that’s well suited to our opponent. Three or four players will be stuck on the bench or in the stands, but a few are coming back into the team. László Bénes will be back in full training on Friday. The others on the current injury list still need reviewing: Lars Stindl, Michael Lang, Nico Elvedi and Ibrahima Traoré are yet to make a return. Treating them with care will be of the utmost importance.
… Thorgan Hazard’s form: Toto plays a big part in my plans. He has used his holiday well to switch off completely and has been back in training for the last two and a half weeks. So I wanted to try him out in the Hastedt game so he could get back into his rhythm. It’s never exactly a bad thing when an attacker plays freely and scores three goals. He will most likely be in the squad for Saturday’s game.
… the expectations for Raffael: Physically, he’s in very good nick. People will always come up with reasons why he shouldn’t play a part in the squad any longer. He struggled to find his rhythm in the second half of last season. It’s never easy for any player in these circumstances. If he stays fit, I’m confident that he can have a brilliant season.
Sporting director Max Eberl raised some eyebrows: When I’m asked about my expectations, I simply say: I want to win the league. So that’s what’s you can write down: Max Eberl wants to win the league.
He went on to back up his statement: It hits home a bit more than simply having no ambitions and languishing in mid-table comfort. We want to achieve something. But I just can’t say what will happen along the way. I’m looking forward to Saturday. Leverkusen have played in Europe 17 times in the last 20 years - that’s the mark of a consistently successful team. We want to prove our worth and so the team needs to follow Dieter Hecking’s philosophy week in week out.
Eberl on the current state of the transfer market: We have decided to stick with our current squad for the season. Whether there’ll be another departure remains to be seen, but it will absolutely not be Thorgan Hazard. I have no doubt that he will be staying. However, as the saying goes, anything can happen up to the final minute in football and that may well apply to his brother Eden.