Munich - Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach may still be feeling the after-effects of their breathless 3-3 draw in the Bundesliga on Saturday, but with UEFA Europa League Round of 32 first leg ties beckoning this week, neither team has time to dwell on what might have been.

With Bayern Munich a shoe-in for the league title and both sides already eliminated from the DFB Cup, their respective fixtures on Thursday - Leverkusen host SL Benfica and Gladbach face Italian giants S.S. Lazio - represent the final punt for each at silverware this season.

Focus on defence


"We know we're up against tough opponents," said Leverkusen holding midfielder and Germany international Lars Bender, "but we're playing the first game at home and want to lay a good foundation for the return." Judging by recent evidence, with Leverkusen having earned just two points from their last three Bundesliga games, that may be easier said than done.

Which is not to say Sami Hyypiä's charges are playing badly - quite the opposite, in fact. Die Werkself have been in devastating attacking form, pulling otherwise organised defences out of shape with their tireless movement. The only thing missing has been a scoreline to reflect those efforts.

High-calibre opponents


"Right now we're doing better at putting on a show than getting the right result," admitted attacking midfielder Gonzalo Castro, before identifying the core problem: "We're conceding too many soft goals and missing too many of our own chances."

Stefan Kießling and Co. cannot afford to be as generous against Benfica. The Portuguese outfit are unbeaten in 18 games domestically and narrowly missed out on the UEFA Champions League last 16 after collecting seven points from their last three matches in Group G, including a draw at FC Barcelona.

Key trio


For their part, Gladbach have been similarly hit and miss since the turn of the year and they will need the same dogged attitude they showed in snatching a point from Leverkusen against their visitors from the Italian capital. Lazio are currently third in Serie A, but have been deprived of veteran Germany international and former Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen striker Miroslav Klose through injury.

Fortunately, the Foals' own heavy armoury is in good shape, with forward trio Juan Arango, Patrick Herrmann and Luuk de Jong working increasingly well together, the latter two netting crucial headers at the weekend and Arango providing an assist.

Defence vulnerable


"When you're in the last 32 you want to reach the next stage," said Herrmann. "We need to put in a strong performance at home in the first leg and not make the same careless mistakes we did against Leverkusen. Then we'll be able to win."

With his attack seemingly sorted, coach Lucien Favre's attention will turn to the back line, which was shambolic at times at the weekend. Watching the goals his side had conceded on a television monitor after the match, the Swiss tactician could only muster: "Mon dieu, we have a lot of work to do."