Leverkusen vs AEK Larnaca – Thursday, October 4, 17:55 BST/18:55 CEST – BayArena, Leverkusen, Germany
It has been a difficult start to the season for Leverkusen. In the Bundesliga die Werkself have collected just six points from the first six matches. On the weekend Bayer had a fantastic start against Borussia Dortmund, but the squandered a 2-0 lead in the second half to go down 2-4 after 90 minutes.
That defeat, in particular, has caused further consternation among Bayer supporters and has turned up the pressure on head coach Heiko Herrlich to deliver. Rumours now have it that Bayer’s management are considering replacing Herrlich with former RB Leipzig head coach Ralph Hasenhüttl.
As a result, Herrlich must now deliver and quickly. Up next will be Cypriot side AEK Larnaca in the Europa League – a competition that could win in importance should Bayer fail to reach the top four in the league once again.
Bayer Leverkusen kicked off their UEFA Europa League Group A campaign with a memorable 3-2 comeback win at Ludogorets, highlighted by two Kai Havertz goals. Like the match against Dortmund, it was a tale of two halves only in reverse – dominated in the first 45 Leverkusen turned the match around to walk away with three points from Bulgaria.
That result, give Herrlich some breathing room after Bayer had lost the first three games of the Bundesliga season. Two league victories – against Mainz and Düsseldorf – followed before Bayer once again dropped points against Dortmund. Hence, Bayer hope to double their points tally in the Europa League as they entertain an AEK Larnaca side that lost 0-1 at home to FC Zürich on matchday one.
AEK qualified for this season’s UEFA Europa League by winning the Cypriot Cup for the second time – and first in 14 years – after coming from behind to defeat Apollon 2-1 in the final. They are in Europe for the fourth successive season and in the UEFA Europa League group stage for the second time, having lost successive play-offs to Czech opposition in the last two campaigns.
It is the first time Leverkusen host, Cypriot visitors, their only previous match against a team from the island took place in the 1995 UEFA Intertoto Cup when they won 2-0 away to Nea Salamis Famagusta. AEK Larnaca, in the meantime, have positive memories from playing in Germany drawing Schalke 0-0 – they did, however, lose the return fixture 5-0.
Lanarca have only played two matches in the ongoing Cypriot First Division drawing Nea Salamis 1-1 and beating Omonia Nicosia 1-0. A decent Cypriotic side Lanarca should be just the right opponent for Bayer to rediscover their form, at the same time anything but a victory for die Werkself could bring the crisis to a boil in Leverkusen.
Leverkusen vs AEK Larnaca – Players to look out for:
Kai Havertz #29 – Bayer Leverkusen
Kai Havertz has been the difference maker for Bayer Leverkusen in recent weeks. The 19-year-old attacking midfielder has scored one goal and two assists in six Bundesliga matches as well as two goals in Leverkusen’s victory on matchday 1 of the Europa League against Ludogorets. A dynamic playmaker of the Michael Ballack school Havertz is a gem, who has a fantastic career ahead of him.
Apostolos Giannou #99 – AEK Larnaca
Australian-Greek forward Apostolos Giannou will be Larnaca’s dangerman. The 28-year-old forward was signed from Chinese club Guangzhou R&F in January and with two goals and three assists in six matches was an important player for Larnaca in the Europa League qualifiers.
Leverkusen vs AEK Larnaca – Match Stats
- Die Werkself have drawn five of their last seven European home games (W1 L1), the defeat coming in the most recent – 2-4 against Atlético Madrid in the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League round of 16.
- Leverkusen have not lost any of their six home games in the UEFA Europa League group stage (W4 D2), conceding just once – to Atlético in a 1-1 draw in 2010/11.
- Lanarca took just one point from their three away games in the 2011/12 group stage, in that 0-0 draw at Schalke. They finished bottom of a section also comprising Steaua Bucureşti and Maccabi Haifa, registering five points.
- Lanarca’s matchday one defeat against Zürich ended a seven-match unbeaten run in Europe (W4 D3). Their record away from home in this season’s UEFA Europa League qualifying phase was W1 D2 with just one goal conceded.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Leverkusen vs AEK Larnaca – 3-0
Leverkusen vs AEK Larnaca – Lineups
Hradecky – Wendell, Bender, Tah, Weiser – Kohr, Bender – Brandt, Havertz, Volland – Alario
Head Coach: Heiko Herrlich
Toño – Ioannou, González, Mojsov, Igor Silva – Larena – Tete, Trichovski, Hevel, Barrera – Giannou
Head Coach: Andoni Iraola
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.