Chicharito return to form boosts Schmidt’s Leverkusen for Atletico test

Bayer Leverkusen head coach Roger Schmidt is confident the Champions League goals will start to flow once more for Javier Hernandez as his side prepare to welcome Atletico Madrid in the last-16.

Leverkusen progressed from Group E behind Monaco and at the expense of Tottenham, although star striker Hernandez did not have his expected influence upon proceedings.

The former Manchester United man netted five in six round-robin outings during last season's competitions but had to be content with a solitary strike in a 1-1 draw against the Ligue 1 leaders this time around.

The group stages coincided with an arduous goal drought of 16 matches across all competitions for the 28-year-old.

Thankfully for Schmidt, Hernandez has emphatically moved on from this slump over recent weeks, netting in the 3-2 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach before back-to-back braces in wins over Eintracht Frankfurt and Augsburg this month.

"Chicharito is in sensational form. He's really hit the ground running after the [season] break," Schmidt said at a pre-match news conference. He's working very hard for the team and is doing a great job of sticking away the chances that come his way. In games like this, it's very important to have a player who can stick the ball in the back of the net."

Atletico lost to arch rivals Real Madrid in last season's final, as they did in the 2015 quarter-finals – a game where Hernandez scored the winner at Santiago Bernabeu – having overcome Leverkusen on penalties.

"As far as I recall we were unlucky to lose to Atletico at this stage two seasons ago. They were two very tight games," Schmidt said.

"We need to make sure we make the right decisions in the final third in order to get a positive result.

"Atletico have a similar squad to two seasons ago. They have added a bit more pace and quality to their attack since then.

"They have an exceptional squad and we'll have to do very well to beat them."

Meanwhile, Germany midfielder Lars Bender trained separately from his Leverkusen team-mates on Monday due to a muscular injury.

Schmidt added: "We will assess the situation tomorrow but we don't want to take unnecessary risks."

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