Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen are in pole position to reach the UEFA Europa League semi-finals. - © IMAGO/Mika Volkmann
Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen are in pole position to reach the UEFA Europa League semi-finals. - © IMAGO/Mika Volkmann

5 reasons Bayer Leverkusen will beat West Ham United in the UEFA Europa League - AGAIN!


Freshly minted Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen have a job to finish after winning the first leg of their UEFA Europa League quarter-final tie with West Ham United. bundesliga.com explains why Xabi Alonso's team will reach the last four...

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1) It's advantage Leverkusen

Leverkusen huffed and puffed, and eventually blew West Ham's house down at the BayArena. After a goalkeeping clinic from Łukasz Fabiański and a shot count approaching 30, Bayer's dominance was rewarded with seven minutes remaining. Substitutes Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface got the goals to give Die Werkself a relatively comfortable 2-0 lead in the tie. It surely won't be relinquished, especially considering Leverkusen's imperious form at home and abroad this season.

Jonas Hofmann helped Leverkusen carve out a 2-0 advantage in last week's first leg. - Lars Baron

2) We are the champions - part 1

Leverkusen's displays on the home front culminated in the Bundesliga title on Sunday. Victory over Werder Bremen put the seal on the Rhineland club's first Bundesliga title, after a handful of near misses in seasons past that spawned the unwanted 'Neverkusen' moniker. Spirits within the camp have reached an all-time high, but don't bank on any sort of comedown or let-up heading into the back straight. Bayer will be determined to extend their record 43-game unbeaten run in all competitions as they - having already booked their place in the DFB Cup final - step up their pursuit of a continental treble. As Alonso said to the jubilant mass of Leverkusen fans celebrating on the pitch: "We want more. We want the cup and the Europa League too!"

Watch: Bayer Leverkusen - champions at last!

3) Unbeaten? Unbeatable!

We touched on it just there, but allow us to reiterate. Leverkusen have not lost a competitive game all season - not in the league, not in the cup, not in Europe. They've taken four points off record champions Bayern Munich, completed a double over top-four contenders RB Leipzig, and done things the hard way with some extraordinary late shows against the likes of Augsburg, Hoffenheim and last-16 opponents Qarabağ. But make no mistake - they make their own 'luck'. And that air of invincibility must be a hugely intimidating prospect for a West Ham outfit needing to win by three clear goals to turn things around inside 90 or even 120 minutes.

Watch: Leverkusen seal title with 5-0 win over Werder Bremen

4) Class from front to back

A world-class operator in his own right back in the day, Alonso has built a team in his image. There are no massive egos - just a bunch of very gifted and modest individuals that, meshed together, play as a quite formidable unit. Goalkeeeper Lukáš Hrádecký and centre-back Jonathan Tah underpin a defence that West Ham found no joy against in the first leg. Granit Xhaka holds down the fort and dicates with conductor-like precision from the base of midfield, while Jeremie Frimpong and Álex Grimaldo - full-backs by trade - are conceivably the most exciting pair of wide players since Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. Then there's the majestic Florian Wirtz - Bayer's creator-in-chief in the No.10 role, fresh from his title-winning hat-trick against Bremen. Ahead of the second leg, Wirtz has had a direct hand in some 35 Leverkusen strikes this term, including 17 of his own.

Xabi Alonso has put together a real team at Leverkusen, since taking charge in October 2022 with the club second from bottom of the Bundesliga. - IMAGO/Maik Hölter/TEAM2sportphoto

5) Plan A, B & C

Leverkusen's quality extends to their bench, as West Ham learned the hard way a week ago. Boniface is actually the club's 18-goal top scorer for the campaign, but was playing for just the third time in 2024 following a groin injury. Hofmann started the season with a bang and continues to prove his worth. Matěj Kovář has been handed the gloves in cup competition, while Nathan Tella and Borja Iglesias provide even more firepower on those rare occasions when the chips seem like they're down. Though, in truth, they never are with this magnificent Leverkusen team. Whatever starting line-up Alonso sends out at the London Stadium, they'll be expected to get the job done.