UCL: Missing Leverkusen lynchpin to aid Atletico mission
Bayer Leverkusen have never made it past the round-of-16 stage of the Champions League and their chances of altering that history against last season’s finalists have taken a blow.
Given Spanish champions Atletico Madrid are already priced up as strong 1/3 favourites to progress at their expense this time around as they head to the BayArena, the loss through suspension of Turkish centre-back Omer Toprak for the first leg couldn’t have been timed worse.
A rumoured summer transfer target of Manchester United among others, Toprak played every minute of his side’s six group games as the Germans went onto finish on Monaco’s coattails as Group D runners-up.
Although the Bundesliga outfit were themselves losing finalists to Real Madrid back in 2002, that defeat occurred before the second group stage was scrapped in favour of the present format.
Three times since in the round of 16 (2004/05, 2011/12 and 2013/14) the Germans have lost by at least four goals over the two legs on aggregate, with Paris St-Germain dumping Leverkusen out 6-1 latterly.
Being the joint-lowest scorers to make it through to the knockout stages of the competition, Roger Schmidt’s side were reliant on the exploits of Toprak at the heart of defence to keep the goals against column to just four of their half-dozen outings.
Without the agile defender in the starting line-up for the recent Bundesliga clash against Wolfsburg, Leverkusen shipped five times which represented their worst total in one match over the course of the campaign.
Spanish champions Atletico were typically robust in the group stages, only conceding three times whilst sticking away goals at an average of 2.3 goals per game.
In lieu of Toprak’s omission, the 2-0 or 3-0 scoreline at 6/1 in the visitors’ favour resonates for this fixture.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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