In order to qualify for the last 16, die Werkself must better the result that rivals FC Shakhtar Donetsk achieve in their fixture away at current Group A leaders Manchester United FC, who are already through. A draw for Leverkusen would, therefore, suffice if Shakhtar are beaten, but a win for the Ukrainians would mean they would top the group outright, sending the Germans into the UEFA Europa League.
Leverkusen took four points from the Ukrainians, including three in a crushing 4-0 win on Matchday 3. However, that good work was undone a fortnight ago when they were humbled 5-0 by a rampant Manchester United. It was a sobering experience for Hyypiä’s men, who now they find themselves in the awkward situation of having to rely on events elsewhere to make safe their progression to Europe’s Premier competition.
As aforementioned, a draw could be enough to qualify, but midfielder Gonzalo Castro was adamant that the team’s attitude will be a winning one in northern Spain, with not a thought given to Shakhtar until after the final whistle. “We simply have to build on what we did in the Dortmund game and give it everything we’ve got. And then we have to hope Man United help us out,” he said at the pre-match press conference, referring to Bayer's excellent 1-0 win at BVB on Matchday 15.
Sociedad are six points adrift at the bottom of the Group A table and have taken just one point from a possible 15 so far. However, that point did come at home to Manchester United, and midfielder Simon Rolfes, scorer of three Champions League goals this season, issued a warning to anyone expecting an easy ride for Leverkusen.
“They’re a good team, with a lot of good technical players,” the 31-year-old pointed out. “Their points total is a bit surprising, especially if you consider that Man United went there and didn’t have things all their own way.” Indeed, one need only to revisit Sociedad’s courageous display in the BayArena on Matchday 2, when they might even have sneaked a win but for Jens Hegeler's last-gasp intervention.
Brimming with confidence
Encouragingly for the 2002 Champions League finalists, they have belief to match the enormous incentive that will inspire them against Sociedad, currently sixth in the La Liga table. The victory over Dortmund consolidated their hold on second place in the league and also cemented their growing reputation as the closest challengers to FC Bayern München.
Defender Emre Can is sure that the team can build on the victory at the Signal Iduna Park, although reminded everyone that this was a different game altogether. “We took a lot of self-belief from the game in Dortmund, but that result doesn’t count now. We have to win this game, that’s all there is to it.”
Real Sociedad: Bravo - Carlos Martinez, Mikel Gonzalez, Ansotegi, Jose Angel - Bergara, Javi Ros - Vela, Xabi Prieto, Griezmann - Seferovic
Leverkusen: Leno - Donati, Toprak, Spahic, Can - Rolfes, Castro, Bender - Son, Hegeler - Kießling