Wednesday, 9th December, 2015, 19:45 UKT
Defending champions and Group E leaders FC Barcelona travel to the Bay Arena on Wednesday night to take on German club Bayer Leverkusen in Matchday 6 of the UEFA Champions League.
FC Barcelona come into the Wednesday’s match on the back of four successive wins in Europe’s premier football competition including a 6-1 hammering of AS Roma two weeks ago. As a result, FC Barcelona have already qualified for the knockout stages of the competition as the leaders of Group E with 13 points from 5 matches – largely on the back of spectacular attacking performances put in by the deadly triumvirate of Messi-Suarez-Neymar (MSN).
On the other hand, Bayer Leverkusen’s European campaign has gone spiraling downwards ever since their 4-1 win over BATE Borisov in Matchday 1 of the UEFA Champions League. Roger Schmidt’s side have failed to win a single match since then. Anything less than a win against the Catalan giants on Wednesday will send the die Werkself crashing out of the competition.
Team News and Tactics
Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Leverkusen go into Wednesday’s do-or-die matchup against FC Barcelona on the back of a 2-1 loss to Hertha Berlin on Saturday. In fact, Leverkusen have only managed to win one of their last 7 matches in all competitions and are heavy favorites to crash out of the Champions League.
Right-back Roberto Hilbert made his first appearance in over two months for Leverkusen against Hertha Berlin at the weekend after recovering from a chronic knee problem. He is expected to start against Barcelona in place of Giulio Donati.
Club captain Lars Bender has been ruled out until the start of the new year due to an ankle injury and will miss out against the Catalans. Greek centre-back Kyriakos Papadopoulos, who scored against the Catalans at the Camp Nou in September, has been declared fit to start for Leverkusen on Wednesday’s. Highly rated German goalkeeper Bernd Leno will start between the sticks.
Former Manchester United striker Javier “Chicarito” Hernandez, who has been in superb goal scoring form lately, will start upfront.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Leno; Hilbert, Tah, Papadopoulos, Wendell; Kramer, Kampl, Mehmedi, Bellarabi, Calhanoglu; Hernandez.
With top spot in the group already secured, FC Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has the liberty of resting several first team regulars against Leverkusen.
Club captain Andres Iniesta and centre-back Gerard Pique have not traveled with the FC Barcelona squad to Leverkusen after being given a rest by Enrique. Jeremy Mathieu, Sergi Roberto, Douglas and Rafinha have also not traveled with the squad on account of their respective injuries.
Enrique is likely to shift Javier Mascherano to midfield as a double pivot alongside Sergio Busquets. Rakitic will most likely operate in a slightly advanced position in front of the pair. Messi, Neymar and Suarez are expected to continue in their usual roles upfront.
Adriano and Bartra will most likely replace Pique and Alves in the Barcelona defence. Enrique also included 3 Barcelona B youngsters Gerard Gumbau, Juan Camara and Wilfrid Kaptoum in his 19 man squad.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Ter-Stegen; Vermaelen, Bartra, Alba, Adriano; Mascherano, Busquets; Rakitic, Messi, Neymar; Suarez.
- Bayer Leverkusen have only lost one of their last six home Champions League games (W4 D1); scoring four goals in successive home matches heading into this one.
- Barcelona have only managed to register one win in their last five Champions League visits to Germany (D2 L2).
- Barcelona have won 14 of their last 16 Champions League games, the only exceptions being a 3-2 defeat against Bayern Munich in last seasona s semi-final second leg and a 1-1 draw against Roma this season.
- Barcelona have scored more second-half goals than any other team this season in the Champions League (9).
- Barcelona have seen four of their goals come from a substitute; the highest number of any side in this yeara s competition.
- Admir Mehmedi has scored three of Leverkusena s last four Champions League goals.
Player to watch out for:
Javier “Chicarito” Hernandez (Bayer Leverkusen)
Former Manchester United striker Javier “Chicarito” Hernandez has scored 13 goals in all competitions for Bayer Leverkusen this season. In fact, he has scored more goals since the beginning of October (11) than the entire Manchester United squad. Commemorating his remarkable goal scoring achievement, Chicarito was named German Bundesliga’s player of the month for November. Chicarito’s ruthless consistency may be Leverkusen’s only hope of qualifying for the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League.
Bayer Leverkusen 0 – 2 FC Barcelona
High flying FC Barcelona, who lead Group E by a margin of 8 points, will fancy their chances of coming away with all 3 points from the Bayer Arena when they lock horns with Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday in the Champions League. Barcelona’s ruthless front three – Messi, Neymar and Suarez – have scored an astonishing 125 goals between them in 2015 alone.
Quite staggeringly, this is more than the total squads of Real Madrid (100), Paris Saint-Germain (124), Bayern Munich (122) and Borussia Dortmund (109) since the beginning of the year. Leverkusen need to beat Barcelona to have any chance of qualifying for the last 16 and this will play into the hands of their Catalan opponents who are deadly on the counter. A hammering for Leverkusen is the prediction of TheHardTackle.