Moussa Diaby, Florian Wirtz and Patrik Schick should provide the firepower for Bayer Leverkusen to overcome Celtic in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.
1) Wirtz and Schick, dynamic duo
Wirtz may only be 18 years old, but he has already established himself as one of Leverkusen's most important players, and became the youngest man ever to reach double figures for Bundesliga goals with his strike against Mainz. In six competitive appearances this season, Wirtz has contributed five goals and four assists. The goalscoring burden does not rest on his young shoulders alone, however. Czech Republic international striker Schick followed up an impressive debut season at the BayArena by starring for his country at UEFA Euro 2020. Schick scored both goals, including the Goal of the Tournament winner, as the Czechs beat Scotland 2-0 in their opening match at Hampden Park. This season, he’s already struck four times in eight outings for Leverkusen.
Watch: Wirtz and Schick combined recently as Leverkusen dismantled Stuttgart
2) Inside knowledge
Wirtz isn’t the only young player catching eyes for Leverkusen this season. Jeremie Frimpong made 51 appearances in all competitions for Celtic, before moving to Leverkusen in January. The 20-year-old right-back has played every minute of the Bundesliga and Europa League campaigns for Bayer, and has two assists to his name in both competitions, setting up both goals in Bayer’s 2-1 victory over Ferencvaros. Having won the Scottish domestic treble across 51 games with Celtic, Frimpong’s teammates will be looking to him for ways to get the inside track against the men in green and white.
3) No-go for Kyogo?
Celtic made some shrewd transfers in the summer to strengthen their side. Additions like former England international goalkeeper Joe Hart were intended to beef up their defensive capabilities, and - at the other end - attacking reinforcements were led by Japan international Kyogo Furuhashi. To say that the winger has been an immediate hit would be an understatement. Furuhashi hit the ground running, scoring seven goals and assist one more in nine competitive matches before picking up a knee injury. Celtic could have used his help against Betis in their opening group-stage game, and it remains unclear when the Japanese will return.
4) History on their side
The early stages of the Europa League are usually happy times for Leverkusen. Die Werkself hold the all-time away record in the Europa League group stage (W7, D2, L3). What’s more, Germany is not a favoured destination for Celtic. The Hoops have lost 15 of 24 matches with German opposition (W4, D5). Gerardo Seoane's men will be hoping that history will repeat itself and allow them to further pad that impressive record. What's more, Scotland has been kind to Leverkusen in recent years: Leverkusen defeated Celtic’s Glasgow rivals Rangers 4-1 on aggregate in the 2019/20 Europa League round of 16.
Watch: Seoane talks up Leverkusen super starlet Wirtz
5) Gerardo Seoane, a safe pair of hands
Leverkusen's new coach, Seoane, can be proud of his achievements in the dug-out, especially in European competition. At his previous club Young Boys, Seoane delivered titles and cup victories, and gave a good account of himself in continental competitions. In last year's Europa League, Young Boys comfortably emerged from Group A, finishing second to Roma. Their opponents in the first knockout round? Leverkusen. It was perhaps this meeting that convinced the Bundesliga club's directors to appoint Seoane: Young Boys won the first leg at home 4-3 and then travelled to the BayArena and came away with an impressive 2-0 victory. His achievements and know-how suggest Seoane has what it takes to lead Leverkusen a long way into this season's competition.