x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

One foot out but Bayer Leverkusen 'to give Barcelona a game'

German club striker Stefan Kiessling realistic about their chances of overturning two-goal deficit at Camp Nou.

Barcelona lead Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 from the first leg of their Champions League game.
Barcelona lead Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 from the first leg of their Champions League game.

BARCELONA // Bayer Leverkusen face the formidable task of becoming the first club in nearly three decades to overturn a two-goal deficit at Barcelona if they are to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.

Barcelona, who lead the Germans 3-1 from the first leg, go into tonight's game with a number of injury concerns but are comfortably on course to reach the last eight for the fifth successive season as they look to retain their crown.

The European champions have progressed 31 of 33 times when opening a two-leg series with a victory away from home, and not since a 4-1 loss to Metz in 1984 have the Catalan club failed to close out a two-goal lead at Camp Nou.

Leverkusen have won a season-best three consecutive league matches, including a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich, since losing to Barcelona. But they have not won away from home in Europe in nearly a decade.

Liverpool beat Barcelona 2-1 at Camp Nou at this stage in 2007 after the English club lost 1-0 at Anfield, but the Spanish champions have won all three last-16 matches under Pep Guardiola, beating Bayern, Stuttgart and Arsenal by a combined 11-1.

Barcelona are unbeaten in 13 European home games with 11 victories and have won nine successive games over German sides, outscoring their opponents by 24 goals to four on that run.

"Realistically, we don't stand much of a chance. But we want to give Barcelona a game," the striker Stefan Kiessling said.

As expected, Guardiola was preaching prudence to his team, the coach saying: "Some may take Leverkusen for granted and underestimate them, but we still have a lot of work to do to get ready for a team with a lot of height that with a corner kick can break open the knockout series."