Xabi Alonso

View from the Opposition | Xabi Alonso on Hammers clash

Despite acknowledging the quality possessed by West Ham United, Bayer Leverkusen head coach Xabi Alonso is targeting victory at London Stadium on Thursday as his side look to build on their recent league title success by powering to the UEFA Europa League semi-finals for the second season in a row.

Leverkusen hold a 2-0 lead following the first leg of the teams' quarter-final tie at BayArena last week, but Alonso is adamant they will not merely attempt to preserve their advantage second time out.

A 62,500-strong capacity crowd will be in attendance under the lights in the capital, including an anticipated 3,000 travelling Leverkusen fans, and the visiting boss is relishing what promises to be a mouth-watering atmosphere.

"We are expecting a tough game for sure. West Ham have the experience after their win over [SC] Freiburg in the round of 16, where they came from behind to get a good result," Alonso said, at his pre-match press conference on Wednesday evening.

"West Ham have good players, and they have done well in Europe over recent years, which we have really thought about and prepared for, so we will need to have our best performance tomorrow.

When you come to England you know the West Ham fans will push for their side [to win] and it will be an electrifying atmosphere
Xabi Alonso

“We are ready to have an intense game and have another game similar to last week. We are not coming here to defend the result, we will play to win the game and that is the best approach for tomorrow.

“When you come to England you know the West Ham fans will push for their side [to win] and it will be an electrifying atmosphere. We can't wait to get going again."

Die Werkself have enjoyed unparalleled success during Alonso's reign. Having been appointed in October 2022 when the club were in the Bundesliga's relegation zone, the former Liverpool star has transformed Leverkusen into a European juggernaut. 

The 42-year-old guided Leverkusen to their first-ever top-flight title in their 120-year history on Sunday against SV Werder Bremen, extending their unbeaten run this campaign to 43 games.

However, while they are still in the hunt for two more trophies at home and abroad, Alonso is aiming for further glory.

Bayer Leverkusen

Alonso added: "We have a great opportunity to make a great season even better. It’s a quarter-final in Europe, so we have all the ingredients to have a special night.

"We were ready for Sunday after the first leg and had a clear idea that we had a great chance [to win the title] and were prepared to take a day off [on Monday] to enjoy it.

"But from Tuesday, our mind and our focus has been on tomorrow’s game and West Ham.

"I feel the hunger and desire of these players to keep going and not to stop. We have a big challenge tomorrow, but we are going to be ready, and if we don’t go through it isn’t going to be because we didn’t have the mentality, it will be because of the way the football happened. 

"We are confident, but in a very humble way. We have the experience from last year of reaching the semi-finals, and we want to go even further this year.  

“Hopefully we can reach the semi-finals. It will come in a very intense May schedule, but it is so good to be at this stage of the season fighting for everything."