Peter Bosz will be plotting a way for Bayer Leverkusen to get through the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. - © 2019 DFL
Peter Bosz will be plotting a way for Bayer Leverkusen to get through the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. - © 2019 DFL
bundesliga

UEFA Champions League Group D: what Bayer Leverkusen should look out for against Juventus, Atletico Madrid and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Bayer Leverkusen are back in the UEFA Champions League after a two-year absence from the competition, but what do Peter Bosz's charges need to watch out for in Group D alongside Juventus, Atletico Madrid and Lokomotiv Moscow?

bundesliga.com takes a closer look...

Bayer Leverkusen

How they got there

Leverkusen's 5-1 win over Hertha Berlin on the final day of last season allowed them to squeeze into fourth place ahead of Borussia Mönchengladbach, granting Peter Bosz's side a spot in the group stage.

Key player

Kai Havertz is worth the ticket price alone. The 19-year-old struck 17 Bundesliga goals last season, nine of which gave his side a 1-0 lead, so the attacking midfielder is very much the focal point of Leverkusen's attacks.

Quick, elusive and able to pull off the seemingly impossible in tight spaces, the Germany international will keep those famed Juventus and Atletico defences very much on the back foot.

Aims in the competition

Bayer have been regulars in the knockout rounds in recent years, so making it out of the group stage is their first target - tough as that may be with their heavyweight opponents.

Watch: What makes Havertz so special

Juventus

Dates Leverkusen play them

Tuesday 1 October: Juventus vs. Leverkusen (Matchday 2)
Wednesday 11 December: Leverkusen vs Juventus (Matchday 6)

How they got there

A club who need little introduction, the Italian giants qualified by virtue of winning the Serie A last season - their eighth successive league title.

Key player

No prizes for guessing who Juve's standout star is. Cristiano Ronaldo joined the Bianconeri a year ago and despite winning just about everything there is to win in the game, the 34-year-old remains as hungry as ever. He single-handedly pulled Juve from the precipice after a 2-0 defeat to his old city rivals Atletico in last season's last-16, netting a second-leg hat-trick to take the Old Lady through to the quarter-finals for the third season running. He finished third in the UEFA Men's Player of the Year award for last season.

Cristiano Ronaldo may be 34, but he is still the spearhead of the Juventus attack. - Getty Images

Leverkusen's path to victory

Perhaps the best way to stem the threat of a Ronaldo-inspired Juve is to keep him as far from goal as possible, and Bosz could be rewarded for being bold and imposing his own attack-minded philosophy on a rearguard which, with the experienced Giorgio Chiellini sidelined for the entire group stage, could well be susceptible.

Familiar faces

Emre Can spent a season at Leverkusen in 2013/14, registering three goals in 29 outings prior to a four-year spell at Liverpool. The midfielder moved to Turin in 2018, but has not been included in the club's Champions League squad for this season.. Winger Douglas Costa and striker Mario Mandzukic also have Bundesliga experience, the former at Bayern Munich from 2015-2017, while Mandzukic also spent two years at the Allianz Arena (2012-2014), following two years at Wolfsburg.

Emre Can chalked up three goals and three assists in 29 Bundesliga outings during his season in Leverkusen. - 2014 Getty Images

Atletico Madrid

Dates Leverkusen play them

Tuesday 22 October: Atletico vs. Leverkusen (Matchday 3)
Wednesday 6 November: Leverkusen vs. Atletico (Matchday 4)

How they got there

Atletico, runners-up in the competition in 2014 and 2016, finished second to Barcelona in last season's La Liga standings, giving them an automatic group stage berth this term.

Bayer Leverkusen, Atletico Madrid - 2017 Getty Images

Key player

Following the departure of Antoine Griezmann, Atletico responded by signing one of Europe's most coveted young attacking forwards in Joao Felix. The Portuguese, who is already tipped to follow in the footsteps of Ronaldo, hit the headlines last season with a hat-trick for Benfica against Eintracht Frankfurt in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League. Now a UEFA Nations League winner, the 19-year-old – who scored 15 goals in his debut season for Benfica – is Atletico's club-record signing and key in attack.

Leverkusen's path to victory

Given that Atletico are one of the most defensively disciplined clubs in Europe, Leverkusen will have to be inventive to find a way through, although this is perhaps the kind of challenge Bosz relishes the most.

Kevin Volland, Leon Bailey, Havertz and Co. would be well advised to practice their shooting under pressure, as Leverkusen will need to take full advantage of any opportunities they get; Atletico don't tend to give many chances away.

Don't be deceived by his youthful appearance: Joao Felix is a real dangerman for Atletico. - 2019 Getty Images

Lokomotiv Moscow

Dates Leverkusen play them

Wednesday 18 September: Leverkusen vs. Lokomotiv (Matchday 1)
Tuesday 26 November: Lokomotiv vs. Leverkusen (Matchday 5)

How they got there

Lokomotiv finished in second place in last season's Russian Premier League, eight points behind champions Zenit St. Petersburg, but level on points with third-placed Krasnodar.

Lokomotiv even had an inferior goal difference to Krasnodar, but secured the runners-up spot - and accompanying automatic Champions League qualification - thanks to their better head-to-head record.

Key player

Aleksey Miranchuk was reportedly a target for several major European clubs just a few years ago and he has continued his development in Moscow, emerging as a key figure in their midfield. Renowned for his excellent left foot, he used to be criticised for his lack of goals, but that is an area he has worked hard on and the results are arriving with the attacking midfielder impressing as Lokomotiv's top scorer.

2014 FIFA World Cup winner Benjamin Höwedes made well over 200 competitive outings for Schalke between 2007 and 2017. - 2019 Getty Images

Leverkusen's path to victory

While Lokomotiv are dangerous in attack - averaging 1.5 goals a game in last season's Premier League and roughly the same this term - they are vulnerable at the back and concede a goal a game on average.

Benjamin Höwedes, Vedran Corluka (see below),and Vladislav Ignatjev are experienced campaigners but are all over 30 and not as quick as they once were. Leverkusen's jet-heeled attackers could, and should, exploit that.

Familiar faces 

Lokomotiv defender Corluka spent six months on loan at Leverkusen from Tottenham Hotspur in the second half of the 2011/12 season, making seven Bundesliga appearances in total. Former Schalke duo Höwedes and Jefferson Farfan are also on the Russian club's books.