Camp Nou – Barcelona
29th September,2015 – 20:45CET (20:45 local time)
Bayer Leverkusen travel to Catalonia to face defending champions Barcelona on Matchday 2 in the Champions League.
There will be a hint of relief in the Leverkusen camp as Lionel Messi who scored 6 goals over two legs and 5 in a single game in 2012, is out injured. Both teams are looking to secure a spot in the next round in what looks like a tough Group E. Both teams have shown poor domestic form as compared to what is expected of them. Leverkusen, sitting 5th in the Bundesliga, have already been defeated thrice in seven matches. While, Barcelona, though placed second in the Liga standings, have not been their former selves after winning the treble last season. Their Champions League campaigns have started on contrasting notes as Barcelona were held by a freak Alessandro Florenzi goal in a 1-1 draw against Roma whereas Leverkusen thrashed Belarus minnows BATE Borisov in their opening match at the BayArena.
Though Luis Enrique insists that they will stick to their style in the wake of an injury to Lionel Messi, Tuesdaya s hosts will have to work harder than they usually do when Messi is on the pitch. The little Argentinea s influence on the team needs no special mention and Barcelona looked unconvincing in the 2-1 victory against Las Palmas on Saturday after he limped off with a knee injury. Luis Enrique will also have to deal with injuries to midfielder Rafinha Alcantara and Adriano, who are in doubt for Tuesdaya s fixture.
Barcelona have a healthy record against German teams in the Champions League and they have not been defeated at home since the 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich back in May, 2013. Against Leverkusen, they clearly have an upper hand with 5 wins from 8 matches. After a treble winning season, it is hard to find the motivation for any team and Barca have been unable to replicate their free flowing football this term as they were defeated soundly by Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup and were nearly defeated in a 5-4 victory over Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup.
Though their second place in La Liga standings with five wins from 6 matches looks good on paper, the Catalan giants clearly have issues that need to be addressed. Their defence has been the main problem this season which has shipped 4 goals on three occasions this season. Dani Alves seemed to have lost a yard within months after winning the treble as Luis Enrique has mostly opted for Barca youngster Sergi Roberto in his place. Central defence has been the most changed position as Marc Bartra, Thomas Vermaelen, Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano have all been used leading to mixed results. Though Jordi Alba made the left-back position his own last season, Enrique constantly rotated with Adriano and Jeremy Mathieu, who was woeful in the 4-1 defeat against Celta Vigo last week. Though world-class forwards themselves, Neymar and Luis Suarez will have the additional responsibility of conducting attacks from deep in the absence of Messi and Tuesdaya s match will provide a good platform for the duo. Since Barcaa s appeal to bring in Arda Turan for injured Rafinha has been rejected, Iniesta could well move to the front line to partner Neymar and Suarez.
Probable Lineup: (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Mathieu; Busquets, Iniesta, Rakitic; Sandro, Suarez, Neymar
Roger Schmidta s men made a brave comeback in the second leg of the Champions League playoff against Lazio to enter the competition for the third time in four seasons. Though mostly remembered for their appearance in the 2002 final against Real Madrid, Leverkusena s past two campaigns in the Champions League have yielded Last-16 eliminations. They have stiff competition in the form of Roma and Barcelona to reach the next round this time.
Although they brushed aside BATE Borisov on Matchday 1, facing Barcelona at home is a different challenge altogether. Despite a shaky start to the campaign coupled with the news of an injury to Lionel Messi, Barcelona remain the favourites to retain the crown and Roger Schmidt knows it. Despite Messi’s injury, Leverkusen still have a lot to deal with in the form of Neymar, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Andr s Iniesta. Their domestic form has been below par unlike their usual bright start to the Bundesliga, and defeats to newly promoted Darmstadt along with a 0-3 loss to a Bayern Munich side without any notable centre-backs in their team shows Die Werkselfa s problems up-front.
The front line of seasoned striker Stefan Kiessling, Karim Bellarabi and Hakan Calhanoglu has struggled while new signings Javier a Chicharitoa Hernandez and Kevin Kampl are looking to slowly adjust to the new surroundings. There is also concern regarding World-Cup Winner Christoph Kramer, who failed to make an impact in the central midfield position after returning to his parent club from Borussia Monchengladbach. Schmidt will be looking for experience in the attack to trouble Barcelonaa s defence that looked unconvincing against Roma on Matchday 1, and might start with Stefan Kiessling and Chicharito up front. Long term Barca target Hakan Calhanoglu and Karim Bellarabi will most likely start on the wings for Leverkusen. Die Werkself are well aware of Barcelonaa s German goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen’s style from his Gladbach days, and will look to make the most of his mistakes in front of the goal. But how Leverkusena s defence will handle the star studded Barca attack will be interesting to see. Centre-back pairing Jonathan Tah and Kyriakos Papadopoulos will have to play a crucial role if they are to maintain their top spot in Group E.
. Probable Lineup:(4-4-2): Leno; Giulio Donati, Kyriakos Papadopoulos,Jonathan Tah,Wendell; Christoph Kramer, Lars Bender, Karim Bellarabi, Hakan Calhanoglu; Chicharito, Kampl
- Bayer Leverkusen have been able to beat Barcelona on only two occasions and both of them were 2-1 victories dating back to 2001 and 2002. Current Barca coach Luis Enrique was a part of the Barcelona side which lost in Leverkusen in 2001 and was the the only scorer for the Catalans in that match.
- Javier a Chicharitoa Hernandez is by far the player with the most European experience in the Leverkusen side, with 33 Champions League appearances to his name. On the other hand, the current Barcelona team averages 30 match appearances per player, with Andres Iniesta having played 108 times for Barcelona.
Barcelona 3 – 0 Bayer Leverkusen
Lionel Messia s absence will definitely affect Barcelonaa s team spirit but they have leaders in the form of Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets to keep them motivated. Luis Suarez has been known for running the show by himself, like he did when he stepped up with a double after Messi left the pitch against Las Palmas. He may again be the key against Leverkusen. Though they have been struggling on the domestic level, Barca are the clear favourites to top Group E, and will look to dominate the possession as they have done previously on several occasions. They have a wealth of experience as compared to Leverkusena s top players, which is enough to gain victory over Die Werkself.
Players To Watch Out For:
With Messi out for at least two months, the onus to score is on Suarez and there is no doubting the Uruguayana s qualities. His understanding with Neymar is still very much the same and will look to lay off a ball for his teammate who likes to cut in from the left flank. His ability to create chances out of nothing earned him many assists while playing alongside Daniel Sturridge at Liverpool, and was also the key to form a formidable attacking trio with Lionel Messi and Neymar last season. He was largely subdued in the opening matches of the season, but was soon back to his usual standards in the game against Las Palmas. He can be expected to pose a significant threat to Leverkusena s defence on Tuesday.
Blast From The Past:
Messi scored 5 goals against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2011/12 season.