Champions League preview: Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona
Bayer Leverkusen will be hoping to extend their impressive home record in the Champions League when they host Barcelona on Tuesday.
The Bundesliga outfit progressed from Group E in second place, thanks to three home wins against Chelsea, Valencia and Genk.
Robin Dutt’s side have won seven of their last eight matches at the BayArena in Europe’s premier club competition, but that will be tough to extend against last year’s Champions League winners.
Leverkusen have been in poor form domestically though and have won just one of their last six Bundesliga fixtures.
With just 28 goals in 21 league fixtures, Leverkusen’s lack of goals has hurt them on the table and the likes of Eren Derdiyok (six goals), Stefan Kiessling (four) and Andre Schurrle (two) have failed to be prolific in front of goal.
In their six Champions League fixtures, their eight goals have been scored by seven players with Derdiyok the only player to have netted on multiple occasions.
And against a Barcelona side that are averaging four goals per game on the road in this season’s Champions League, Dutt’s men simply must score goals if they want to progress over two legs.
Leverkusen’s bid to make the last eight for the first time since 2001-02 – when they lost the final to Real Madrid – suffered a blow when it was revealed veteran midfielder Michael Ballack will miss the first leg with a calf injury.
The German international suffered the injury in training on Sunday, while Derdiyok and Sidney Sam have also been ruled out.
Barcelona will recall midfielder Sergio Busquets back into their squad after a knee injury while the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta will be fresh after sitting out Saturday’s shock 3-2 loss at Osasuna.
Cesc Fabregas was only called on for the last 20 minutes in that match as Barca boss Pep Guardiola kept his eye firmly on the Champions League tie in Germany.
The defeat means the Catalans are now 10 points behind Real Madrid in the race for the La Liga title, meaning Guardiola’s attention is likely to shift to the Champions League permanently as they attempt to be the first side to retain the trophy since AC Milan in 1990.
Barcelona have not lost in Germany in their last seven attempts, with a 2-1 defeat at Leverkusen in 2001 being the last time they suffered defeat in the country.