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dpa

Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen are taking nothing for granted and have even trained penalties ahead of Wednesday’s German Cup semi-final against Fortuna Düsseldorf, who for their part want to defy all odds and reach the final as well.

Second division Düsseldorf are well aware that Leverkusen are unbeaten in all 39 season matches but goalkeeper Florian Kastenmeier said: “They have to lose at some stage, why not against us? “We definitely have a chance. When, if not in the cup with its own rules?” Kastenmeier told Kicker sports magazine ahead of their trip 20 kilometres south to Leverkusen.

Leverkusen have been modest all season, and coach Xabi Alonso is making no exception now although his side is the only top tier club left, with second tier Kaiserslautern and third division Saarbrücken contesting the other semi later on Tuesday.

“Yes, we are the only Bundesliga team so that is easy to be classed as favourites. That doesn’t mean anything though. We want to deserve our chance to play in the final,” he said.

“We are expecting a good opponent tomorrow. They are in really good form. It’s a semi-final for both teams and and a huge chance to play in the final. We will give our all to end up at the final in Berlin.

“We are prepared for all scenarios, including the penalty shoot-out.

But our aim is to decide the game in 90 minutes. We’ve done well so far, but we haven’t won anything with the good performances so far.” Alonso was injured but present when his Bayern Munich side beat Borussia Dortmund for the 2016 Cup title, saying the atmosphere in Berlin was “almost like a Champions League final.

“To play a final is perhaps the best feeling for a footballer. And that in Berlin is very special,” he said.

Leverkusen lifted the trophy in 1993 and are now chasing a treble, sitting 13 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga and also in the Europa League quarter-finals.

But they know from past experience that nothing is achieved yet, most notably in 2002 when they blew a big Bundesliga lead and lost the German Cup and Champions League finals in a 12-day span.

Düsseldorf are also dreaming, of gaining promotion back into the Bundesliga and reaching the final of the Cup they won in 1979 and 1980.

“We’re playing a fantastic season and are in a form that allows us to strive for the maximum in two competitions,” coach Daniel Thioune said.

“My dream is to be sitting in the Olympic Stadium on 25 May with this golden thing. We want to do everything we can to be successful.” Alonso meanwhile also said that their Bundesliga top scorer top scorer Victor Boniface could make his long awaited comeback from three months on the sidelines with a groin injury.

“Boni is in the squad. I don’t know how long he can play. Not for 90 minutes, 45 possibly also not but maybe 30. He has a strong mentality and can’t wait to be back on the pitch,” Alonso said.

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03/04/2024
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