Bayer, Sociedad fight to keep dreams alive


LEVERKUSEN — Bayer Leverkusen host Real Sociedad in the Uefa Champions League today with both sides aware that they are putting their dreams of reaching the knock-out phase on the line.


“On Wednesday, we have a difficult game in the Champions League, we don’t need to talk about how important that is,” said Leverkusen’s coach, the former Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia.

Leverkusen lost 4-2 to Manchester United at Old Trafford in their opening Group A match a fortnight ago, while Real lost their opener 2-0 at home against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Bayer warmed up for today’s clash at Leverkusen’s BayArena with a 2-0 win at home to Hanover 96 on Saturday to stay third in the Bundesliga and Hyypia has said his team can do better against Jagoba Arrasate’s Real Sociedad side.

“Defensively, we played well for almost the whole 90 minutes, but going forward we can play much better and that’s something we have to look at,” said Hyypia.

According to British media reports, Arsenal are keen to sign Bayer midfielder Lars Bender for 24 million euros (£20m), but Leverkusen have said the Germany star is not for sale.

Bender is under contract until June 2017 and has no get-out clause.
While Leverkusen have no significant injury concerns, Real are without captain and playmaker Xabi Prieto, who picked up a hamstring injury in the 4-1 defeat at Barcelona last week.

Attacking midfielder Esteban Granero is another significant absentee, while French winger Antoine Griezmann faces a race to be fit on time.
Mid-table in La Liga, Real have not won since beating Lyon 2-0 away in the Champions League play-offs in August and badly need a win after three defeats and three draws.

Defender Carlos Martinez says that the side who finished fourth in the Spanish league last season to qualify for the Champions League must rediscover their scoring touch soon.

“Last year we started badly too and then look what happened. Then we were scoring with half a chance and right now we need four or five to score, but this will change,” said Martinez, who played in the 1-1 draw at home to Sevilla on Saturday.

“We know that we have a great team.

“The opponents are coming to close down our game, not let us play and try to catch us on the counter-attack, but at the end we were on the verge of winning (against Sevilla).

“Now we need to go to Leverkusen and get something from the game because the group stages are very short and we lost in the first game.

“We will give it our all.”