bundesliga.com has all the pre-match rumblings from both camps ahead of the crunch clash at the BayArena…
Bayer 04 have never progressed past this stage of Europe’s premier club competition, having suffered humbling defeats at the hands of Liverpool FC (2004/05), FC Barcelona (2011/12) and Paris St. Germain (2013/14). Last season's runners-up, meanwhile, are hoping to reach the quarter finals for a seventh time.
Josip Drmic is expected to keep his place up front after scoring in Leverkusen’s 2-2 draw with FC Augsburg. With Ömer Toprak suspended after being sent off in the final group game against SL Benfica, Emir Spahic will return to the heart of defence, but Lars Bender, Robbie Kruse and Tin Jedvaj all remain unavailable for selection.
Atletico head coach Diego Simeone is likely to stick to his tried and tested 4-4-2 formation as the Argentinian still has a full squad to choose from with the exception of influential midfielder Koke, who is a few weeks shy of recovering from a hamstring injury.
Taking into account Atleti's firepower and the fact that Leverkusen have conceded nine goals in their last three league outings, hopes of keeping things tight at the back rest largely on Emir Spahic. The Bosnian served a one-game ban on the weekend and the energy conserved could prove vital in nullifying the visitors’ dream duo of...
...Antoine Griezmann and former FC Bayern München striker Mario Mandzukic. The Frenchman and the Croatian have combined for 37 goals in all competitions this term and were at it again in Saturday's 3-0 win over UD Almeria, with Mandzukic netting from the spot before twice assisting for Griezmann. Bayer’s backline beware!
Heung-Min Son: “Atletico like to counter so we’ve got to focus on our defensive duties because we have to make sure we don’t concede.”
Tiago (Atletico midfielder): “I’m sure they’re going to make life difficult for us, but hopefully we can advance into the next round.”
The Werkself have collected just five points from as many games in the Rückrunde after dropping points courtesy of a last-minute goal for the second Matchday running. Atletico have picked up 15 of a possible 18 points in their last six La Liga outings, but their league form is offset by a recent 4-2 aggregate loss to Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey.
These sides played out two 1-1 draws in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League group stages. Leverkusen boast a record of six wins, three draws and five defeats against La Liga outfits on home soil, but have failed to advance from their last four two-legged ties against Spanish opposition. Atletico, meanwhile, have lost just one of their last nine away games at Europe’s top table.
Leverkusen: Leno - Castro, Spahic, Papadopoulos, Wendell - Reinartz, Rolfes - Bellarabi, Calhanoglu, Son - Drmic
Atletico: Moya - Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Siqueira - Raul Garcia, Tiago, Gabi, Saul Niguez - Griezmann, Mandzukic