A goalless draw at SL Benfica on Matchday 6 coupled with AS Monaco's 2-0 win over FC Zenit saw the Werkself surrender first place to their French nemesis, with the exact ramifications set to be determined when the draw for the last 16 is made in Nyon on 15 December.
'We'll suffer the consequences'
"We didn't play well and we didn't press or do anything that we normally do," bemoaned Leverkusen's resident Socceroo Robbie Kruse in a post-match interview with Uefa.com. "We thought we had an opportunity to win the match and with it the group, but […] it wasn't a good performance from us, we didn't get the points we needed and we'll suffer the consequences of coming second."
In practice, Kruse and Co. could come up against any number of seasoned Champions League competitors in the new year, with holders Real Madrid CF, 2013/14 finalists Club Atletico de Madrid, Portuguese giants FC Porto, one from either FC Barcelona or Paris-Saint Germain and a Chelsea FC outfit that beat FC Schalke 04 5-0 a fortnight ago all set to be drawn from the opposing pot in six days' time.
'It's going to be difficult'
"We have to improve for the last 16," admitted Schmidt after yesterday's ho-hum stalemate. "Even if we had won the group we could still have played Paris Saint-Germain or FC Barcelona, but we are still disappointed we didn't finish top because now we won't play the second leg at home. The team have shown they know how to play under pressure […] in a tough group we've done very well."
Wins over Zenit and Benfica attest to the Leverkusen chief's closing statement, but the 2001/02 runners-up still have much to prove if they're to go one better than last season's two-legged defeat to PSG and reach the quarter finals. "The best teams in each group usually finish top and we're under no illusions that it's going to be difficult," Kruse concluded. "That's the way it is now."