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Champions League

Champions League: Leverkusen eye elusive win as Dortmund seek safe passage

Bayer Leverkusen go into Wednesday's match at Tottenham looking to earn their first win in Group E and boost their hopes of reaching the round of 16. Dortmund are in a much more comfortable position in Group F.

Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt will make his return to the dugout on Wednesday after serving a two-match ban handed down by the German FA for a verbal confrontation with his Hoffenheim counterpart, Julain Nagelsmann, a week-and-a-half ago. 

He does so in a key match in the battle for last-16 qualification. Leverkusen are on three points in Group E, while Tottenham Hotspur, the team they played to a scoreless draw against a fortnight ago, are in second with four.  

However, with leaders Monaco on just five points, things are very much open and the returning Schmidt and his men could still conceivably finish top of the group. One thing is certain, they won't be satisfied with a third-place finish, which would see them move over to the Europa League after the Champions League group stage. 

"Our ambition remains to reach one of the top two places in the group," Schmidt stressed after Leverkusen's come-from-behind Bundesliga win in Wolfsburg on Saturday. 

Despite Leverkusen's inconsistency this season, which has seen them eliminated from the German Cup by third-division side Lotte, the mood ahead of their fourth Champions League group-stage clash seemed upbeat - especially as Tottenham play their European home games at London's Wembley Stadium. 

"Wembley is mythic, it has an aura," sporting director Rudi Völler told reporters before the team boarded their flight bound for the British capital. "But Tottenham will have to come up with a strong performance to beat us."

Midfielder Kevin Kampl insisted that "we have shown that we are capable of competing with any team." At the same time though, he conceded that the contest against Tottenham would be "the toughest game in the group."

Schmidt will have to do without captain Lars Bender, while defenders Jonathan Tah and Ömer Toprak have been declared fit. 

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino will have to do without England striker Harry Kane and defender Toby Alderweireld when the two teams take to the pitch in front of a sell-out crowd of 90,000 on Wednesday. 

Dortmund look to punch their ticket for last 16

Borussia Dortmund go into their home game against Sporting Clube de Portugal as the leaders of Group F, ahead of Real Madrid on goal difference. Both teams have seven points from their first three matches.  This means that a win over the visitors from Lisbon on Wednesday would clinch at least one of the top two places in the group, assuring them of a spot in the final 16. 

"We really want to strengthen the good position we are already in with a win, because we will really need to focus on the league after that," Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc said. 

Zorc was referring to a dark October for the club in which Dortmund failed to win a single match in the Bundesliga and dropped to sixth in the standings, eight points behind Bayern Munich - against whom they had hoped to mount a credible challenge for the title this season. 

In their defense, Dortmund have been hit by a spate of injuries in the early part of the campaign. 

Marco Reus, Sven Bender, Neven Subotic and Erik Durm all remain out of action with long-term ailments. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang recovered from a knock to his calf to play in Saturday's scoreless Ruhr derby, while Marc Bartra returned from a groin injury - however, Thomas Tuchel left him on the bench. 

Captain Marcel Schmelzer has been out of action since mid-October with a groin injury, while Andre Schürrle and Raphael Guerreiro both came on as substitutes on Saturday after spells on the sidelines. Gonzalo Castro has also been out.

"Guerreiro, Castro and Schürrle trained well. But playing 90 minutes after three training sessions is another thing," Tuchel told a news conference on Tuesday.

Despite their injury woes, Dortmund will take confidence from their match against Wednesday's opponents two weeks ago, when they beat Sporting 2-1 in Lisbon.      

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