Bayer Leverkusen’s place in the Champions League is hanging by a thread going into their home game against holders Barcelona and Omer Toprak admits they only have a slim chance of qualification for the knockout stages.
Leverkusen have to secure a famous win if they are to progress to the knockout stages, with three outcomes still possible – qualification, a third-place finish and Europa League spot or complete elimination from continental football.
The Bundesliga side are third in Group E on five points, level with Roma, who have a superior head-to-head record. BATE, who travel to the Italian capital in the group’s other match, are also still in contention on four points.
The European champions, meanwhile, have already secured first place in the group having picked up 13 points from their opening five matches and smashed Roma 6-1 in their last game in the competition.
Leverkusen do not go into the match in good form either, having won only once in their last seven games in all competitions and suffering a 2-1 defeat at Hertha Berlin on Saturday.
Toprak wants Leverkusen to give everything in Wednesday’s clash, but is aware the odds are stacked against them in their bid to progress.
“We have to analyse the game against Hertha and look at our mistakes,” he told the club’s website.
“We cannot afford to make the same mistakes versus Barcelona. Obviously, we realise that we have a very small chance to progress but we want to make the most of that small chance.”
Given that top spot is already secure for Barca, Luis Enrique has the flexibility to make changes to his line-up for the game. Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta have been rested, while Dani Alves (suspended), Jeremy Mathieu (thigh) and Sergi Roberto (ankle) are all out.
Roberto Hilbert (knee) returned to the pitch for the first time in two months against Hertha but Lars Bender (ankle) is out.
History is not on Leverkusen’s side ahead of the match as the last six Champions League clashes between the two teams have all been won by Barca, including a 7-1 thrashing in the 2011-12 round of 16 which featured five goals from Lionel Messi.
Luis Suarez, who scored a late winner in the reverse fixture between the two sides, has particularly enjoyed this competition since arriving at Camp Nou, scoring 12 goals and providing an additional five assists in 15 appearances.
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