| Monday, March 11, 2002 20:02 EST
Leverkusen has attack problems in must-win match
LEVERKUSEN, Germany -- Bayer Leverkusen
coach Klaus Toppmoeller has a striker problem ahead of Tuesday's
Champions League match against Juventus which his men have to
win to keep alive their chances of reaching the quarterfinals.
German international Oliver Neuville is sidelined with a
sore ankle and Ulf Kirsten, in poor form, could also be left out
of the Group D game.
Toppmoeller was expected to bring in rising Bulgarian
striker Dimitar Berbatov for Neuville with Thomas Brdaric the
likely replacement if Kirsten does not start.
Germany midfielder Michael Ballack was another doubtful
starter because of a cold and his place could be taken by
Croatian Jurica Vranjes.
Leverkusen is at the bottom of Group D with four points from as
many matches. Only a victory against Juventus in its
penultimate fixture, would leave the German league leaders in
contention for a spot in the knockout stage.
Juventus is one place above Leverkusen also with four
points. Spanish club Deportivo Coruna leads the group with seven
Leverkusen's commercial manager Reiner Calmund tried to play
down the occasion.
"We've reached the second phase and we've seen good
matches," he said. "We can be satisfied with that."
But Toppmoeller, whose team beat Energie Cottbus 2-0 on
Saturday to maintain its Bundesliga lead, was in a more
"We have to win this match," he said.
Aside from the Champions League, Leverkusen is well-placed
to win the German title for the first time and also has the
German Cup final against Schalke 04 in May to look forward to.
"I've never been so convinced that we will become German
champions," Toppmoeller said after the victory over Cottbus.
Leverkusen, who has not won a single trophy since lifting
the German Cup in 1993, is desperate to use the season's last
stretch to get rid of its reputation as perpetual runners-up.
"That image will stick to us unless we win something,"
Toppmoeller said. "Playing attractive football won't help. What
we need is a title."
A good result against Juventus on Tuesday would provide
Leverkusen with a welcome morale boost for the battles to come
and would also enable the club to restore some pride after its
embarrassing 4-1 defeat to group leaders Arsenal late last