Europa League: Unbeaten Bayer Leverkusen put treble bid on the line against West Ham

Bundesliga champions-elect host Hammers in last eight of competition

Xabi Alonso, centre, head coach of Bayer Leverkusen, has his unbeaten team on course for a historic treble. Getty Images
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Bayer Leverkusen put their unbeaten season and their treble ambitions on the line when they host West Ham United in a Europa League quarter-final first leg tie on Thursday night.

Xabi Alonso's team are yet to lose this season, winning 36 and drawing five of 41 games across all competitions. Last weekend's 1-0 win at Union Berlin means three points against Werder Bremen this Sunday at the BayArena will secure the club's first-ever league title.

As well as their Europa League campaign, they have a German Cup final against second division Kaiserslautern to look forward to in May, with there now being a realistic chance that Alonso's side could win more trophies this season than in the club's entire previous history.

To say such success is unprecedented would be a massive understatement. Despite being a big name in German football, Leverkusen have a relatively bare trophy cabinet, with just two major honours: the 1988 Uefa Cup and the 1993 German Cup. Club bosses are also said to be fraught with concern they have nowhere suitable to host fans when celebrating their successes at the end of the season.

Alonso, however, will hear no talk of parties. His steadfast refusal to get carried away by their record-breaking form has been a theme of the season.

"We're in a super situation in the cup, the Bundesliga and we want to also do well in the Europa League and achieve as much as possible," Alonso said after Saturday's win took his side 16 points clear of closest domestic challengers Bayern Munich.

"On Thursday we've got West Ham at home. It's not the right moment to think about the weekend. We'll have time, but we just need to be a bit more patient."

The luck of the draw means Leverkusen would face Liverpool in the final in Dublin in what would be Jurgen Klopp's last match in charge of the Reds, should both sides keep winning. Alonso had been tipped to succeed Klopp but has since declared his intention to stay put next season.

On Thursday they will face a West Ham side who have proven their mettle in Europe in the past couple of seasons. David Moyes' side lifted the Uefa Conference League last term and have won six of eight this season, including a 5-0 pummeling of Freiburg in March.

An interesting sub-plot is the concentration of Czech Republic internationals who could be on the pitch. Striker Patrick Schick and winger Adam Hlozek are key players for the hosts, whose back-up keeper, Matez Kovar, has also been capped by the Czechs. West Ham, meanwhile, will feature Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal.

Right-back Coufal has already revealed he will be sharing some information about his international teammates with the West Ham dressing room.

“They have a lot of strong players in their team and it's not going to be an easy match," said Coufal.

“We're going to do everything we can to stop them, and I'm going to give the lads some insight to help them. Patrik Schick is a tremendous striker and he was their hero in the last round. Adam Hlozek has shown he can score from nothing, and I've had some banter with Matej Kovar through text.

“If we weren't in the competition I'd probably be cheering them on to win the whole thing, but we have a job to do and we're confident we can stop them.

“They're favourites to win the Bundesliga and the German Cup, but hopefully we can make sure that two trophies is all they're going to get this season."

Updated: April 10, 2024, 4:59 PM