Football

'It is possible to beat Atletico'

Leverkusen not ruling out their chances against 'stronger' Spanish opponents

ROUND OF 16, 1ST LEG

BAYER LEVERKUSEN ATLETICO MADRID

Revenge will be on Bayer Leverkusen's minds when they face Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League Round-of-16 tie tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

Two seasons ago, the two clubs clashed in the same round with Atletico progressing 3-2 in a penalty shootout after the two legs had ended 1-1 on aggregate.

Leverkusen will enter tomorrow morning's match as the underdogs again, judging by their erratic form in the Bundesliga.

The German club have lost nine times in their domestic campaign while dropping to eighth in the table, but can take comfort from an unbeaten 10-match streak at home in Europe.

Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt believes that it is not mission impossible to beat the Rojiblancos.

"The play-off two years ago was tough. We had a bit of bad luck because we lost on penalties," said Schmidt.

"They have been to the final (of the Champions League) twice in the last three years, so it will be complicated for us.

"But we believe in our possibilities and will try to come out as the winners. We know that it is possible to beat Atletico Madrid."

STRONGER

Schmidt feels that Diego Simeone's men are stronger than the last time they met in the 2014/2015 season.

"(Kevin) Gameiro, (Nicolas) Gaitan and (Yannick Ferreira) Carrasco are new and they are quality players," said Schmidt.

"I think that the team are stronger than the last time we faced them."

Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno is brimming with confidence after Leverkusen won their last two league matches, including last Friday's 3-1 victory at Augsburg.

"Why not win against them?" said Leno. "If we show our Champions League face, then everything is possible.

"You can see the team really want it. We are fighting, we are fighting for each other and that was not necessarily the case a couple of weeks ago."

Hakan Calhanoglu scored in the 1-0 first-leg victory over Atletico two seasons ago, but the talented attacking midfielder will be watching from the stands tomorrow morning.

The Turkey international is out for the rest of the season after being handed a four-month ban by Fifa over a breach of contract offence when he was at Karlsruher six years ago.

Atletico, on the other hand, are on a high after trouncing Sporting Gijon 4-1 in La Liga last Saturday, with substitute Gameiro scoring a remarkable late hat-trick in five minutes, making it the fastest treble in La Liga since 1995.

They will be without defender Diego Godin, ruled out with a thigh injury but will have goalkeeper Jan Oblak back after his shoulder injury and surgery in December.

Simeone showered praise on Gameiro after the win.

"The changes in the second half were decisive because they gave us balance in the middle of the park and then the pace of Gameiro decided the result," said Simeone.

"I was very happy for Gameiro because it's not easy to score three goals that were also very important for the team." - WIRE SERVICES

Champions Leagueatletico madridBayer Leverkusen