Champions League tonight. MATCHDAY THREE! Cue X Factor style thumping dramatic music.
It’s Bayer Leverkusen in Germany. Die Werkself (no idea of the translation, sorry) currently lie third in the very tight looking Group E having drawn both of their opening games, 2-2 with CSKA and 1-1 at home to Monaco.
Despite Leverkusen’s up and down Bundesliga form, they are tenth with 3 wins and 3 losses from 7 games, we should prepare ourselves for a tricky encounter. The BayArena is one that we can file under Happy Hunting Ground, one game, one win (1-0, Berbatov, 2006) but for it to remain a HHG after tonight, we will require one of our better European away performances.
Supplying a coincidental nod to our last Moneybags League campaign, Leverkusen lost to Werder Bremen at the weekend however it’s only a few weeks since they despatched Borrusia Dortmund 2-0 at a time when Dortmund were racking up scorelines of half dozen more often than your local egg packer. We should be warned and wary.
The home side know they need a win to keep their hopes alive of qualifying for the next stage. A win for us might well signify Bay Bay Leverkusen. (You see what I’ve done there?)
The Germans have been relying on a Mexican (Javier Hernandez) and a Finn (Joel Pohjanpalo) for their goals this year – though the latter is injured and out of this game. The Turk, Hakan Calhanoglu is another key player and unfortunately for fans of nominative determinism, he is the free kick specialist and not Lars Bender.
We travel in good spirits but minus a few wounded of course. Our reliable spine of Kane, Toby and Dembele is two and a half men down but the adequate replacements mean that we shouldn’t lose our sheen. (Ouch).
Rumour has it that Kyle Walker has not travelled meaning that should Rose not have recovered from whatever was ailing him on Saturday, we could be fielding a pretty makeshift defence. Eric Dier will be drafted in to partner Vertonghen with Kieran Trippier to the right of him. Some arrangement of Janssen, Son, Eriksen, Alli, Wanyama and Dembele is liable to make up the six in front of defence with Lamela also a possibility.
The styles of the two sides mean that the word ‘frenetic’ has been used often in pieces anticipating this encounter. Leverkusen are apparently a byword for the pressing game in Germany. Personally I think a draw would be a good result so would be happy to see us take a no risk approach at the back – clear it from the centre halves quickly, thus removing the possibility of error and giving the German pressers nothing to press – and rely on returning hero Son and goal machine Janssen to smash and grab up front. Whether Poch thinks that is an entirely different matter.
The referee and his many chums are from Turkey.
If it wasn’t clear already that we’re in for a tough evening then the fact that Leverkusen are favourites with the bookies (6/5 to win, we are a long 23/10) should drive the message home. Could be a long 90 minutes. If we come home with anything we’ll have earned it.
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