25th February; 19:45 GMT
As Champions League heats up in the Round of 16, Spanish champions Atletico Madrid visit Bayer Leverkusen who havena t reached the quarter-finals of the tournament since 2002. Atletico Madrid on the other hand will look to replicate last seasona s heroics and undo the horror suffered at the hands of Real Madrid in the dying minutes of the 2014 Champions League finals.
Bayer Leverkusen havena t been performing upto their expectations and Atletico Madrid will pose a serious threat to the German club in the Champions League clash. Leverkusen havena t won a single game in their last three fixtures and barely managed to qualify from the group stages. Roger Schmidta s side failed to put forward a convincing performance in group stages and finished second behind Monaco after winning only three of their six fixtures.
Bayer Leverkusen will miss the services of Omer Toprak due to suspension while Robbie Kruse and Lars Bender remain unavailable due to injury concerns. Leverkusen need to score goals in the opening leg of the fixture but will expect a strong challenge from one of the best defensive sides in Europe. Josip Drmic is expected to lead the teama s attack and will come across the likes of Miranda and Godin in an attempt to score goals. Drmic will need to form an attacking partnership with Hakan Calhanoglu along with Bellarabi and Heung-Min Son who need to be on the top of their game in order to break the Atletico Madrid defence.
Meanwhile Bayer Leverkusen will need to put forward a strong defensive line-up in order to contain the likes of Griezmann and Mandzukic. With Omer Toprak out of the fixture due to suspension, Schmidt is likely to partner Papadopoulos with Emir Spahic in the defence. The defensive duo will have to guard against Atletico Madrida s swift counter-attacks and will have the responsibility to organise the team during set-pieces. Atletico Madrid is notoriously good at set-pieces and Bayer Leverkusen will do well to avoid conceding goals from such conditions.
Expected Starting Eleven: Leno (GK); Spahic, Papadopoulos, Wendell, Donati; Rolfes, Gonzalo Castro, Son, Bellarabi, Hakan Calhanoglu; Josip Drmic
Atletico Madrid enter this fixture as the favourites to progress to the Quarter-Finals of the Champions League. Diego Simeonea s side hardly put a foot wrong in their last campaign but were robbed of the title in the dying minutes of the game after Sergio Ramos headed in the equaliser in extra-time. Hence Atletico Madrid will be keen to take the lead and score the crucial away goal in the first leg of the fixture.
Defensively, Atletico Madrid is one of the best teams in Europe but Diego Simonea s side recently suffered a hiccup after losing 2-0 to Celta Vigo right after thrashing Real Madrid by 4 goals. Miranda and Godin are expected to start in the defence alongside Juanfran and Siqueira with Gabi and Suarez deployed in the midfield. Koke remains unavailable for the fixture which means that Atletico Madrid will be heavily reliant on new recruits Antoine Griezmann and Mario Mandzukic to see the team through. It will be interesting to see if Fernando Torres is given the chance to make his Champions League debut for Atletico Madrid. Atletico Madrid are one of the most efficient sides in Europe when it comes to scoring from set-pieces and will target Bayer Leverkusen’s shaky defence in order to take the lead.
Expected Starting Elevn: Moya (GK); Miranda, Godin, Juanfran, Siqueira; Gabi, Suarez, Arda Turan, Saul Niguez; Griezmann, Mandzukic
Bayer Leverkusen 0-1 Atletico Madrid
Player To Watch Out For
Antoine Griezmann is the player to watch out for. The French international has been sensational for Atletico Madrid after joining the club last summer and has established himself under Diego Simeone. His pace along with his vision makes him an asset and the youngster has the ability to threaten his opposition with his efficient runs. He will be the biggest threat for Bayer Leverkusen as his partnership with Mandzukic is fast turning lethal in Europe.
Blast From The Past