Saturday, March 24, 2018

Prediction: Bayer Leverkusen vs Lazio

Bayer Leverkusen face a difficult task after conceding a late goal in the first leg at Stadio Olimpico and they now desperately need to keep a clean sheet in order to have any chance of progressing. Lazio may be in a good position after the 1-0 win, but numerous injuries to star players are definitely a cause for concern.

While they were unable to challenge mighty Bayern Munich for the Bundesliga title, Bayer Leverkusen did improve club’s profile in Europe’s elite competition, having reached the Champions League group stages no fewer than three times in last four campaigns. The club officials did well to reinforce the squad over the summer, adding the likes of Charles Aranguiz, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Admir Mehmedi, Jonathan Tah and Andre Ramalho to their ranks, while Gonzalo Castro was the only high-profile player to leave. But, even if coach Roger Schmidt didn’t want to throw new signing Aranguiz into the action too early given his exploits at the 2015 Copa America, the Chile star eventually suffered a difficult injury in training and is now set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Even without the highly rated midfielder, die Werkself managed to win all three domestic matches at the start of the new season, but ended up losing the most important one, having succumbed to a 1-0 defeat to Lazio. Seeing as Leverkusen will have the best chance of reaching the group stage if they keep a clean sheet, we definitely expect the hosts to adopt a cautious approach. And while Aranguiz, Toprak and Jedvaj are definitely out, important attacker Heung-Min Son is rated doubtful.

Lazio needed to make quite an effort to achieve a top 3 finish in Italian Serie A last term and they did well to leapfrog Napoli and secure a place in the Champions League play-offs after trailing the Azzurri some eight points midway through the league campaign. Just like their next opponents, the Biancocelesti made some decent signings during close season, with Ricardo Kishna, Ravel Morrison and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic some of those, but they did experience problems at the start of the new season. While suffering a 2-0 loss to Juventus in the Italian Super Cup match, Lazio also had centre forwards Miroslav Klose and Filip Djordjevic pick up injuries, meaning youngster Balde Diao Keita is the only striker Stefano Pioli can count on for the return leg. He did score the only goal in the first leg, but will have a difficult task of netting at Bay Arena as well, just like his other teammates. With Federico Marchetti and Lucas Biglia sidelined as well, the Biancocelesti have no choice but to keep things tight at the back and wait for their chance on the counter-attack, which seems like perfect tactic given the result achieved in the first match.


Scoring three goals past rock-solid Lazio seems like mission impossible and that is why Bayer Leverkusen cannot really afford to concede if they want to go through. And with the Biancocelesti toothless in attack without Klose and Djordjevic, a low-scoring match appears on the cards.

Verdict: Under 2.5 goals

Best Odds: 19/20

Bookmaker: William Hill





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