Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bayer Leverkusen v BATE: Schmidt´s men seek to maintain group stage record

SoccerNews in Bundesliga 14 Sep 2015

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Bayer Leverkusen will hope to get their bid for another successful Champions League group stage up and running with victory over BATE at the BayArena on Wednesday. 

The Bundesliga club are in the pool phase of the tournament for a third season running and have qualified for the knockout stages on each of their last six appearances.

However, with Group E also featuring defending champions Barcelona and Roma, Leverkusen boss Roger Schmidt will know there is little margin for error in their first meeting with BATE.

The Belarusian Premier League leaders came through their qualification play-off on away goals against Partizan and are widely expected to end the group campaign bottom of the pile.

Schmidt – whose side have won five of their last six home fixtures in Europe – is hoping to see Leverkusen bounce back from a surprise 1-0 defeat to Darmstadt at the weekend, having brought in the likes of Javier Hernandez and Kevin Kampl in the transfer window.

“We had set our sights high as this was our first game with this squad,” he said.

“If you then lose at home, that is obviously disappointing but we just have to accept and learn from it. And you could see that we have much to learn in terms of being smart.”

While Schmidt has doubts over Omer Toprak and Tin Jedvaj (both thigh), his opposite number Aleksandr Yermakovich is hopeful former Barca and Arsenal playmaker Alexander Hleb will feature, having been withdrawn 20 minutes from the end of Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Shakhtyor Soligorsk.

Yermakovich’s men face a tough task to survive the group stage for the first time but will take heart from their record of just three defeats in all competitions this year.

“We had a poor first half, conceded a goal and became a bit nervous,” Yermakovich told reporters following the weekend’s stalemate.

“We also started to allow too many mistakes in the midfield and were not quick enough. But after the break we played better definitely – we scored one goal and could have scored more.

“We had to substitute Hleb because we need to spare him for the important game in Leverkusen we are to play on Wednesday.”

Nemanja Nikolic (ankle) also remains doubtful for the visitors while a cruciate ligament injury means Vitali Rodionov will miss out.

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