Leverkusen face uphill battle against Atletico in Champions League round of 16 | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 14.03.2017
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Leverkusen face uphill battle against Atletico in Champions League round of 16

Leverkusen have it all to do in their quest to reach the Champions League quarter-finals. Tayfun Korkut's side need to score three without reply at the Vicente Calderon against Atletico Madrid, last year's finalists.

Bayer Leverkusen will need to draw as much inspiration as they can from Barcelona's dramatic 6-1 comeback against Paris Saint-Germain last week to have any hope of reaching the Champions League quarterfinals when they visit Atletico in Madrid on Wednesday night. The Bundesliga side has never progressed after losing the first leg at home, and has been on the receiving end of some heavy defeats at this stage.

However, the task at hand reads simply: Win by three clear goals on the night. The situation is fluid - should Diego Simeone's team find the net, Tayfun Korkut's team will need to outscore the Spaniards by several.

"The point of departure is difficult, but we have already experienced a lot in football," Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Völler said.

A week after dismissing Roger Schmidt, the Werkself are in the midst of a precarious transition phase, with successor Korkut handed the reins until the summer. Korkut's first match as Leverkusen coach was flat; a 1-1 draw at home to struggling Werder Bremen, which kept the Rhineland club four points out of the European places.

"Normally, I would look forward to the Champions League, but the Atletico game comes at an unfavorable time for us," said the club's managing director, Michael Schade, before the team departed for Madrid from Cologne-Bonn Airport. "We want to try to use the match to build up our self-confidence! And who knows; there are always miracles - especially in sport."

Leverkusen have traveled without a number of key players, including captain Ömer Toprak, who suffered an ankle injury in the draw with Bremen on Friday. Jonathan Tah, Stefan Kiessling and Lars Bender are missing through injury. Bernd Leno underwent surgery on Saturday to fix a broken nose that he sustained after being clattered into during the second half against Bremen, but he should be available. Hakan Calhanoglu and Benjamin Henrichs are suspended, while Kai Havertz hasn't traveled due to important school exams.

Wonderkids collide in Monaco

The brightest and best from Monaco and Manchester City are also to do battle on Wednesday, with the Premier League side leading having built up a 5-3 advantage in the first leg.

Scoring three potentially valuable away goals in England, the Ligue 1 club, particularly 18-year-old attacker Kylian Mbappe, dazzled on the attack. With 10 goals in 21 league appearances this term, the Parisian is rightly regarded as one of Europe's hottest young properties, prompting strong interest from Bayern Munich towards the end of the January transfer window.

Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola's side are similarly feeding off the precociousness of former Schalke winger Leroy Sane, who has recently found his feet at the Etihad Stadium following his 50-million-euro ($52 million) move. The 19-year-old scored in the first leg, and his electric contributions have re-energized Guardiola's team, who have fallen 10 points off league leaders Chelsea in the Premier League.

"Always when you pay a lot of money, managers all over the world are expecting the best, when it's going well it is always cheap. When it's going bad it's always expensive," the former Bayern coach told reporters in England.

"I think he has a lot of qualities, he's so fast and runs in behind like few players in the world. But he's just 21 years old, so the gap to become a really good player is still big."

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