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‘Dublin is over’, says Alonso as Leverkusen eye German Cup redemption

Bayer Leverkusen face Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final. Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP

Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso said his side would use their pain at the Europa League final loss to Atalanta this week as fuel ahead of Saturday’s German Cup final clash with Kaiserslautern.

The 3-0 loss to Atalanta in Dublin on Wednesday was Leverkusen’s first defeat since May 2023, ending a record run of 51 games unbeaten. 

The manager said the team did not spend too much time dwelling on the result which ended the Bundesliga champions’ hopes of a remarkable treble. 

“We didn’t take long — our focus is on tomorrow. 

“It is over, Dublin is over,” the coach said ahead of the season finale. 

“It was a long way and finally we’re here. After Wednesday, we’re ready and focused.”

Despite Wednesday’s loss, Leverkusen are hot favourites against the second-division side, who narrowly escaped relegation to the third division. 

Kaiserslautern, a four-time Bundesliga winner now languishing in the second division, only played one top-flight side on the way to the final — FC Cologne, who have since been relegated. 

Alonso said: “Being favourites means nothing. We need to fight, be well prepared and after Wednesday I have the feeling that our hunger is a bit bigger, because the pain is fresh. 

“We need to use it in the right way – to play well tomorrow and to deserve to win it.”

Alonso confirmed captain Lukas Hradecky would be in goal for the match, with Matej Kovar preferred in the German Cup and Europa League this season. 

Hradecky won the German Cup final with former club Eintracht Frankfurt in 2018 but has lost on two other occasions, once in 2015 and again in 2020 after his move to Leverkusen. 

Alonso, who is in his first full season as a manager in the top grade, takes on veteran coach Friedhelm Funkel, who started his career in the dugout in 1989. 

Funkel will coach in his third German Cup final, having lost the previous two as manager of Duisburg in 1998 and Eintracht Frankfurt in 2006 — both times against Bayern Munich. 

The 70-year-old was called out of retirement to manage Kaiserslautern in February and said he knew Leverkusen would win the title long before they finally clinched their first ever Bundesliga crown in April. 

“I was retired so I had time to watch plenty of Leverkusen games — I knew they would be champions.”

“We’ve got a mega challenge ahead of us.”

“It’s indescribable to be here again as a coach. I’m looking forward to it incredibly.”

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