Football

Champions League: Bayer Leverkusen vs Atletico – Oblak return boosts Rojiblancos

Antoine Griezmann shakes hands

Bayer Leverkusen will be keen for revenge when they meet Atletico Madrid in the Round of 16 of the Champions League once again. It was the La Liga giants, who knocked Bayer out of the tournament in 2014/15 edition, exactly in this same round. Both the teams claimed a 1-0 home victory with the Spanish side progressing 3-2 on penalties. Atletico and Leverkusen have played four times in recent years, each team winning one game with two draws. There have never been more than two goals scored in the four encounters between both sides. 

 

 

Bayer looking to maintain unbeaten UCL run

When the draw was made in mid-December, Atletico Madrid were the outright favourites for this tie. Bayer Leverkusen found themselves in the fringes rather than vying for one of the top three positions in the Bundesliga. The results have gradually improved for the German side and there are other positives for Bayer Leverkusen going into this match with Chicharito scoring again. This, therefore, could be the perfect time for Bayer Leverkusen to play Atletico Madrid.

Also Read: Europe's Greatest Teams – Arrigo Sacchi's AC Milan

Only six clubs were unbeaten during the group stage and Leverkusen were one of them, with two victories and four draws sending them through along with Monaco and at the expense of Tottenham Hotspur. And with Bayer looking unlikely to book another Champions League appearance next term, barring a fantastic run of results in the second half of the Bundesliga campaign, they can afford to put all their eggs in this one basket in their efforts to advance in the competition.

 

Bayer Leverkusen team news

Roger Schmidt could be without star centre-back Jonathan Tah, who remains a big doubt due to a muscle problem. Hakan Calhanoglu is unavailable following his four-month FIFA suspension for breach of contract.

 

 

Opta Facts

  • Bayer Leverkusen have reached the knockout stages for the fifth time in their last six Champions League campaigns. However, they haven’t progressed past the round of 16 since 2001/02 when they were beaten finalists.
     
  • They have lost eight of their last nine Champions League knockout games (W1), their only win in that run coming against Atletico Madrid (1-0, February 2015).
     
  • They are unbeaten in their last eight Champions League games (W2 D6), their longest run without a defeat in the competition. Only Real Madrid are on a longer streak among current clubs (10 games ).

 

Simeone hoping for another deep run in the tournament

Atletico Madrid are the proverbial grinders, and it takes something special to beat. Perennial title challengers in La Liga and Champions League finalists in two of the last three years, the Spanish outfit are one of the best on the continent.

But Leverkusen might just have picked a good time to tackle Diego Simeone’s side. Since the start of November, Atleti have lost four of the eight matches they have played – while losses against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are perhaps unsurprising, faltering against Villarreal and Real Sociedad exposed their soft belly. Despite Simeone’s men not having the best of seasons, they are still considered a force to reckon with in European football and must be considered favourites in this tie.

 

 

Atletico Madrid Team News

Simeone has some big decisions to make in defence, with centre-back Diego Godin and right-back Juanfran all set to miss out through injuries. Jan Oblak is set to return after almost 2 months out of action with a dislocated shoulder. Kevin Gameiro is expected to start, having scored a hat-trick off the bench in the 4-1 win over Sporting Gijon on Saturday.
 

Opta Facts

  • Atletico’s overall record against German opponents reads: W18 D6 L14.
     
  • They had the joint best defensive record during this season’s group stage.
     
  • They have kept 25 clean sheets (in 42 games) in the Champions League since their return in 2013/14, more than any other club in that period.
     

 

Predicted Lineups
 

Bayer Leverkusen XI (4-2-3-1): Leno; Wendell, Jedvaj, Toprak, Henrichs; Kampl, Bender; Brandt, Havertz, Bellarabi; Chicharito

 

Atletico Madrid XI (4-4-2): Oblak; Filipe Luis, Hernández, Savic, Vrsaljko; Carrasco, Gabi, Niguez, Koke; Gameiro, Griezmann

 

 

TV Guide

The match will telecast at 01:15 IST on Ten network on Wednesday, 22nd February 2017.

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