Free-scoring Leverkusen host high flying Porto
Peter Bosz’s Bayer Leverkusen welcome Porto to the BayArena for the first leg of this last 32 tie in the Europa League. Leverkusen found their way into the competition having come third in their Champions League group, whereas the visitors and 2018/19 Champions League quarterfinalists failed to make the cut, getting painfully knocked out in qualification by Krasnodar. The German fifth placed side are narrow favourites to win this leg however Sergio Conceicao’s men have far more experience in European football and certainly have the quality to go deep into the competition.
Leverkusen come into this one on strong form, three wins on the bounce scoring a combined nine goals. Without any title challenge this competition should be close to the top of Bosz’s priority list and their attacking prowess should give them plenty of confidence of progressing. They have found the net in all of their last seven encounters and with promising talents like Kai Havertz in their ranks, the Porto backline will undergo a detailed examination on Thursday evening.
The Blue and Whites have won their last five in the Primeira Liga since defeat to Braga in mid-January. Victory over Benfica last time out has seen them move to within a point of the reigning champions, however they would be content with a second placed finish and a significant run in the Europa League. Such is their history of European success in the long term being far better than Benfica, sometimes to the detriment of domestic titles. Alex Telles is their danger man to look out for under the lights in Leverkusen.
A 20-year-old dynamic attacking midfielder, who has already been capped seven times by Germany can play a big part in this tie should he find his best form. He has scored thrice and assisted one in his last five outings, getting the equaliser in the first half in a battling 3-2 at newly promoted Union Berlin at the weekend. Joined by Kevin Volland and Leon Bailey in offense, they make quite the trio and one that will have enough to breakthrough the Portuguese’s rearguard action.
In a very busy season in multiple competitions one-time Brazil international Alex Telles has managed nine goals and nine assists from left-back in 35 games. The 27-year-old also has bagged three goals in his last five and Bosz will need to prepare for his threat down the left. Though his responsibilities will be mainly defence in this leg of the tie, Porto may adopt a counter-attacking approach with Moussa Marega as their focal point and Telles could be the main to pick him out.
Following devastating performance against Borussia Dortmund and Union Berlin, Leverkusen will continue their goalscoring form and take an advantage to the Dragao.