Atletico Madrid lay 12 points behind Real Madrid (with a game in hand) and are as good as out of the race for La Liga. Their sole purpose this year is qualifying for the Champions League next season because it would be very embarrassing if they moved into a new hyper-modern stadium with now European football.
After Juanfran missed his penalty to hand the Champions League trophy to Real Madrid last season, he vowed that this side would one day win the competition. He said it was their main focus. It has to be now and aside from the Copa del Rey, Atletico will have to point all their energy on European competition without letting their domestic form drop to the point that it effects their momentum and confidence.
Bayer are struggling in the Bundesliga and sit in 8th place after a 1-0 win over Schalke at the weekend. They have also played, and lost to, Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig in recent weeks.
Roger Schmidt has been hailed for his pressing style and the high intensity with which his teams tend to play with. Similar to Diego Simeone in the intensity stakes but this match-up could suit Cholo and Atletico down to the ground as they will have the chance to play in their defensive 4-4-2 and pounce on any mistakes that Leverkusen make.
The first legs to be played on 14th, 15th and the 21st and 22nd of February next year while the second legs are on the 7th and 8th and 14th and 15th of March.
Bayer Leverkusen’s top scorer is former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez on seven goals in all competitions. The Mexican knocked Atletico out of the 2014-15 Champions League in the quarter-finals with an 88th minute strike that would send Real into the semi-final.
Their second top scorer is a man who has been linked with Atletico in the part, Turkey’s Hakan Calhanoglu, with five goals.
Yannick Carrasco has overtaken Antoine Griezmann as the top scorer at the club with 10 goals while Griezmann remains on nine.
The last time these two teams met was in the same Champions League that Hernandez knocked Atletico out with Real Madrid.
Atletico snuck through on penalties after two 1-0 wins in either league by the home side. Atletico beat their German opponents 1-0 at the Vicente Calderon through a Mario Suarez deflected effort after Hakan Calhanoglu had given Bayer a 1-0 lead in the first leg. Atletico would go on to win on penalties in a particularly poor shoot-out. Fernando Torres, Antoine Griezmann and Mario Suarez scored with Raul Garcia and Koke missing. Bayer, however, missed three with Hakan Calhanoglu, Omer Toprak and Stefan Kießling missed their spot kicks.
Contra el Leverkusen ya le tocó a Koke jugar en el centro pic.twitter.com/W0aHyiCVLH— Jose (@joseleatleti) December 12, 2016
The two sides have met four times in the part with that 2014-15 game along with two Europa League Group B games in 2010-2011. They both ended in draws.