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David Moyes will take charge of his first Champions League (proper) game tonight when United host Bayer Leverkusen. He’ll have a strong squad to pick a side from as Kagawa returns from flu but Welbeck and Jones are doubts, Rafael isn’t quite fit, Nani is suspended and Januzaj is ineligible for now. United’s group has been widely acknowledged to be pretty tricky so winning the home games will be vital.
Ahead of the game tonight, we’ve put some questions to Jens Peters about our opponents:
1) Bayer Leverkusen finished third last season, behind the two European Cup finalists – how far have you come in the past few seasons?
Bayer Leverkusen is – if everything goes to plan – a contender for the places that qualify for the Europa League or Champions League. Three seasons ago, they were so good that they were second in the league. Sadly Borussia Dortmund got an incredible run that year, so that the second place was the best they could do. The year before they were undefeated in 23 matches, but lost their way a bit in the last 10 matches. For the Meisterschaft there was always one missing piece in the mosaic.
2) Just how good is Stefan Kießling? His 27 goals last season was extremely impressive but can he deliver in Europe?
Good question. In the last Champions League season he only managed one goal, but he had good games. He is incredibly valuable even if he doesn’t score. He’s a hard worker on the pitch and if he’s not scoring he sets them up regularly. But there is an argument that he doesn’t deliver on the biggest continental and international stages, like he does in the German Bundesliga.
3) What are your expectations for this season, both domestically and in Europe?
Leverkusen are aiming for 3rd place behind the big ones, Dortmund and Munich, and at the moment they are proving that this is not unrealistic. Anything better than that 3rd place is a bonus for me. In the Champions League it would be great to get through the group stage and then we will see.
4) How will you line up at Old Trafford on Tuesday night?
Pretty much like in the league. There are some question marks behind the midfield because Castro is out and Bender will probably not play, so there is a place for the young talent, Emre Can, today.
5) What do the fans think of Sami Hyypiä as manager? Is he the right man for the job?
They were a bit sceptical before the season because last season he was working alongside someone who maybe was more experienced in tactics and setting up teams, but at the moment everything seems to be working out fine. After a loss against Schalke before the World Cup qualifiers they responded well, so Hyypiä found a way reach the team. In general he is highly regarded in Leverkusen. Nobody expected much of him, as he came here for his last two years of his playing career and he did fantastic job. On and off the pitch the respect stretched into his coaching career. Great man.
6) What are your thoughts on Manchester United and David Moyes so far this season?
I cannot say much about Manchester United. I saw a bit of that Crystal Palace match from the weekend and it was good, but nothing to fear. United is not the United of 2010 for example, so I think it’s an open match, with obvious advantages for the home side. Moyes has to show that he can handle a club like United and I am not sure if he can do it. We will see. I was surprised that he got a five year deal.
7) Tell us about your three young stars; Bernd Leno, Emre Can and Son Heung-Min.
Leno is a very talented goalkeeper – very solid in all areas of goalkeeping. Sometimes he makes some unexplainable errors, but you’ve always get the feeling that he’ll come back from a mistake stronger. Can is a big question mark. He’s a very talented midfielder, but he’s played only a few matches at a high level, so we have to see how he develops. Son is very similar to his predecessor on the left side – Andre Schürrle. Fast, good at dribbling, fantastic shot, but some problems in his defending and delivery.
8) How does this side compare to that of the 2002 side and what are your memories from the 3-3 draw with United in the semi finals?
The team of today is much younger, the players don’t have that star-factor they had in 2002. It’s more a team that is good because it works as team. In 2002 I only remember the fighting back; Manchester United were leading, and Bayer came back. It was incredible but for United fans it must have been very frustrating.
9) If you could take one player from Manchester United, who would you take?
I think Fellaini would be a great addition, but I would also take van Persie.
10) Give us a fact about Bayern Leverkusen and what can United fans expect from the city of Leverkusen for the return fixture?
A small but beautiful stadium, great fans in the Nordkurve and a hard match for United.