Leipzig (Germany) (AFP) – Germany striker Timo Werner hopes to purge painful memories of Istanbul with a win over Turkish champions Besiktas on Wednesday that would fire RB Leipzig into the Champions League’s last 16.
When the teams last met in September Werner had to leave the field, feeling dizzy and in clear distress, after only 32 minutes of his side’s 2-0 defeat at Besiktas’ Vodafone Park.
His dizziness was the result of blocked neck muscles, which kept him out for the next three weeks.
“My body had just reached a point where it said, ‘enough is enough’, I felt dizzy, there was a lot of pressure on the game, my first Champions League match, and I just didn’t feel good,” he told broadcaster ZDF.
“It was my first serious injury and not a pleasant experience.”
Werner scored twice in Leipzig’s 4-1 win battering of Monaco a fortnight ago to keep their hopes of reaching the knock-out stage alive, while Besiktas are already through as group winners.
Leipzig are third in Group G, level with Porto on seven points, and the Germans must pick up more points against Besiktas than Porto do at home to eliminated Monaco if they are to snatch second spot and reach the last 16 in their first Champions League campaign.
– Big name dreams –
“As long as the chance remains, we will do everything. We still have hope,” said Werner.
“This is our chance to go further in the competition, to be able to play the likes of Barcelona or Manchester United or Real (Madrid).
“We have to beat Besiktas and hope Monaco get a good result at Porto.”
Leipzig are also hoping centre-backs Willi Orban and Dayot Upamecano will recover in time from thigh problems.
Besiktas are unbeaten and won both their away matches so far – 3-1 at Porto and 2-1 at Monaco.
Leipzig crashed 4-0 at Hoffenheim on Saturday, the club’s heaviest defeat in their two years in the Bundesliga and a rare black mark in a season that has them second in the league, trailing Bayern Munich by six points but ahead of Germany’s other heavyweights.
“We weren’t good enough going forward or at the back and we have to tick the defeat off,” said Werner.
The 21-year-old is Germany’s first-choice striker after netting three goals in the national team’s Confederations Cup triumph in July.
After scoring 21 goals last season, he has hit 11 more in 2017/18 and combined that with three assists.
– diving jeers –
His prowess has led to rumours in Spain that Real Madrid want the fleet-footed forward, who is under contract until 2020.
“In every league, there are two or three big names everyone wants to play for and who could win the Champions League,” said Werner on his future.
“I have a contract in Leipzig — let’s see what the future brings,” he replied when directly asked about joining Bayern Munich.
Leipzig’s director of sport Ralf Rangnick insists Werner is going nowhere, “not this winter nor next summer”, as they try to tie him to a long-term contract.
Werner has endured a tough 12 months, having to win over German fans after diving to win a penalty in a 2-1 win against Schalke in December 2016.
The incident led to him being booed and whistled at Bundesliga stadiums whenever Leipzig visited.
“A lot of questions were asked about my character, I have always said I am sorry for it and I didn’t do it intentionally,” said Werner.
“It affected me, I had to deal with a lot more pressure than other players, but on the other hand it toughened me up and I learnt from it.”