It’s been a good season, especially in the Bundesliga, for Bayer Leverkusen so far. However, considering their results against big teams this season and the arrival of PSG to the Bayarena for the first leg of their Champions League knockout stage clash, they’re pretty big underdogs.
Leverkusen have injuries and suspensions to be worried about, not to mention their home loss against Schalke which makes their bid to remain at second place in Germany a bit more complicated than it seemed not too long ago.
Another issue is their home form. Like a lot of German teams, Leverkusen can be very enjoyable to watch, but they’re a tad on the naive side, and can’t really rely on a soft defensive line with Ömer Toprak and Philipp Wollscheid in the middle to hold down a defensive stand: They’ve lost to Schalke and Kaiserslautern back to back in home matches, and everyone still remembers their 0-5 loss to Manchester United, the same club that’s the laughing stock of the Premier League.
What do Leverkusen have to sell in this one? Gonzalo Castro, Sidney Sam and Heung-Min Son. They’re not elite players, but it’s going to be their ability to dominate against PSG’s very organized defensive system and create one on one opportunities for themselves and also Stefan Kiessling that will determine if this first leg will be at least a competitive one.
PSG don’t have too many injured players, but the absence of Edinson Cavani is slightly worrying. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will play alongside Ezequiel Lavezzi with Lucas Moura playing behind them, and the PSG system and tactics are going to be quite clear. Long balls to Zlatan and let him do what he does, while the defense with Thiago Silva and Marquinhos keeps everything together.
Leverkusen will be trying to drag PSG into a fast-paced game and try to make them play wider and less tight than they’re used to, but unless they find a way to dominate against the 3-man midfield of Verratti, Motta and Matuidi, it’s going to be very difficult for Leverkusen to actually make their counter attacking schemes work. PSG probably don’t have much of a problem to play for a draw and simply hope for Zlatan to provide his moment of genius. That’s more likely to happen than Leverkusen getting something similar from one of their players.
Prediction – Leverkusen have only one mode, which is attack without too much thinking. Against a very good defensive side like PSG with an execution specialist like Ibrahimovic up front, this means a narrow away win for the French champions.