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The inside track on Bayer Leverkusen...

Posted on 1 November 2016  - 13:45

How have Bayer Leverkusen fared since our first meeting in Champions League Group E a fortnight ago? We turned to Matthew Howarth, German football reporter for UEFA, to find out...

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Matthew Howarth, UEFA.com

matthew_howarthFirst of all Matthew, what have you made of Bayer Leverkusen’s campaign so far in the Champions League? German football expert Raphael Honigstein suggested they might regret the first two draws…
Matthew:
"For the second season running, Leverkusen’s Champions League campaign has been characterised by slick attacking football at one end and, with the possible exception of the goalless draw with Spurs, defensive lapses in concentration at the other. The Bundesliga side were cruising against CSKA Moscow before conceding twice out of nothing, and they should have been out of sight in Monaco long before the French club’s last-gasp equaliser. The feeling among Leverkusen supporters is that the Werkself should have one foot in the next round, but those four dropped points could prove very costly."

How has Leverkusen’s form been since our goalless draw at the BayArena?
Matthew: "It’s been a mixed bag - thanks to their 2-1 win at Wolfsburg in their most recent outing! Prior to that, Bayer were thumped 3-0 at home to Hoffenheim (they were reduced to 10 men after just six minutes, admittedly) and knocked out of the DFB Cup on penalties by third-tier outfit Sportfreunde Lotte. It looked like it was going to be three defeats on the spin when Wolfsburg took the lead at the Volkswagen Arena on Saturday, but goals from Admir Mehmedi and Tin Jedvaj were just reward for a dominant second-half display."

Below: Admir Mehmedi takes on Dele Alli in Leverkusen

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We saw what Bayer Leverkusen are capable of in the second half at the BayArena. How do you think they might approach it at Wembley? Play with caution or go for it?
Matthew: "Leverkusen have not won on the road in the Champions League since November, 2014 but they can turn it on away from home when the situation demands it. They gave Barcelona an almighty scare at the Nou Camp last term - they were good value for their 1-0 lead until late goals from Sergi Roberto and Luis Suarez earned the Catalan giants the three points. I expect Leverkusen to be difficult to break down at Wembley, but Roger Schmidt will encourage his players to get forward at every opportunity. I would be very surprised if this one ends goalless as well!"

Below: Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez and Mehmedi

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For fans who might not have seen the match at the BayArena or seen Leverkusen this season, who are the players to look out for?
Matthew: "Javier Hernandez’s predatory instincts remain as sharp as ever. The former Manchester United man has seven goals in 13 appearances in all competitions, and had it not been for Hugo Lloris’ goal-line heroics at the BayArena a fortnight ago he would have grabbed the winner against Spurs too. Hakan Calhanoglu’s dead-ball abilities are second to none and Mehmedi has been in good form of late, but if Tottenham can keep ‘Chicharito’ quiet they have a good chance of picking up their first home win of the group stage."

Below: Javier Hernandez can't believe Hugo Lloris has just saved his point-blank effort at the BayArena

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Finally, how pivotal do you think this match at Wembley will be for the group? How do you think the game and the group will pan out?
Matthew: "There will be goals, but I’m expecting a tense encounter with little to choose between the two teams. Defeat for either side could prove disastrous, particularly with Group E leaders Monaco playing at home to Moscow. If you twisted my arm I would have to go for another draw, which would not really suit either side. As I mentioned above, though, predicting Leverkusen’s results in the Champions League is a thankless task!"