What does Sneaky Pete have up his sleeve for Saturday’s match at (Scheiß) Leverkusen?
“Leverkusen plays a bit like Hoffenheim played last year. They present a strong pressing game, but have a better defense than Hoffenheim had last season. It’ll be damned difficult, but we absolutely know how we will get our opportunities.”
Now, for a man who is in charge of a squad that struggled with what is widely regarded as a fairly poor Hertha BSC side, that statement presents a strong degree of confidence.
Apparently the KSTA reporter speaking with Stöger thought so, too, and said as much, to which the coach replied, “Yes, yes, of course,” while laughing.
Just how confident can he be?
- First, it’s a road match.
- Second, it’s a road match against a side consistently playing in Europe because they have the corporate funding of a major pharmaceutical company allowing them to stock the shelves with an impressive collection of talent.
- Third, the Pill Pimps seem to have busted out of whatever slump they had been in, putting together three goals in the second half in Hannover, the first of which ended Stefan Kießling’s long dry spell.
- Fourth, there’s a strong chance the PP’s will arrive in a fairly good mood from having secured their Champions League group.
Fifth, Leverkusen suffers deeply from little-brother syndrome when it comes to 1. FC Köln. They absolutely despise that the Effzeh dominates the football interest in the region, despite the fact Bayer does indeed sponsor a regular Champions League competitor, while the Billy Goats are frequently relegated to the 2. Bundesliga. It absolutely gnaws at them, as exhibited last year when sporting director Rudi poodle-hair Voller took a shot at the second-division status of the FC while fending off questions about a beat-down administered to them by Manchester United in their home park.
- Sixth, the list of players who will be available for Stöger Saturday who’ve ever faced Leverkusen on the pitch is exactly one name long. Peszko. That’s it! That’s the list!
I’m sure I’m forgetting some item or other that also would tend to favor the home side Saturday, but that it quite enough.
Stöger is likely aware of all of these details in some very vague way, but clearly none of them figure into how he has to approach his job, so I assume they’d all have minimal impact in his preparations. After all, they’re not things he can control.
But, what I had failed to consider right up until I read the quotes reminding me of it, is that Stöger and his opposite number on the touchline for Leverkusen, Roger Schmidt, are fairly well acquainted with one another’s work.
“Based solely on feel, playing against this team seems like it would be very difficult, but there are also potential solutions to their style of play. On one hand, it requires an undisturbed passing game and on the other hand a lot of movement. My assistant coach Manfred Schmid and I recognize this from Austria. Salzburg played similarly under Roger Schmidt, and we were able to find solutions against Salzburg, though we won our championship without actually beating them. Yet, we knew all along how to crack this system.”
So, yeah. Sneaky Pete and Mani have seen the Schmidt’s work before and feel like they know how to deal with it.
You know, except for the bit where they didn’t actually succeed. Otherwise . . .
“It’s always a question of whether the implementation works, but we are confident we can achieve something.”
Ah . . . that.
The thing is . . . I buy it. Even though things don’t always work ideally with this team this season, but Stöger always seems cool. Schmidt, to me, always looks antsy, which is fair as he’s one year fewer into his tenure and in a much more high-pressure spot right now.
Another advantage for the Effzeh.
Does Sneaky Pete have a plan? I’m certain he does.
Is he confident he can outwit Schmidt? You can bet on it.
Will the “implementation” result in a point or three? Well, that’s always the real question, but unlike when the two were competing in Austria, the clubs of the two coaches are not chasing the same league title. Instead, one has a stated goal of avoiding a bottom-three finish, while the other is likely to finish outside the top three. Whatever happens at BayArena, those goals won’t be changing, at least not publicly.
And, just as was the case in Austria a few years ago, even if Stöger can’t get a win over Schmidt, he’ll still be in the better position.