Leverkusen: Bayer Leverkusen will have to brush off recent poor form if they are to stop Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Paris Saint-Germain's march to the Champions League quarter-finals in tonight's Last 16, first-leg clash.
PSG striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Bayer's work cut out
Leverkusen will have their work cut out containing maverick Ibrahimovic, who has scored eight times so far in the tournament, and overcoming the formidable obstacle of high-scoring PSG if they are to reach the Last Eight for the first time since 2002.
Having reached the quarter-finals for the first time last season, big-spending PSG are gunning to be crowned European champions for the first time. "I think it would mean a lot," said Ibrahimovic, who scored in PSG's 3-0 win at home to Valenciennes on Friday to stay top of the French league.
"If we can get further than the quarter-finals this year, it would be a big step for us. "This project has been ongoing for two years and I've been here for one-and-a-half — it is developing."
Leverkusen's last foray into the Champions League's knockout rounds came two years ago when they lost 1-3 at home to Barcelona in the Last 16's first-leg, only to be humiliated 7-1 in Spain when Lionel Messi hit a record five goals.
Defence in doldrums
With the return leg in Paris on March 12, Leverkusen will need to tighten up at the back. Sami Hyypia-coached Leverkusen will be without Australia winger and knee injury-victim Robbie Kruse, who is out for the season, while former Bayern Munich midfielder Emre Can is suspended.
Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani is missing for PSG with a hamstring injury, while defenders Zoumana Camara, calf, and Christophe Jallet, back, are rated doubtful. Nevertheless, PSG head to Leverkusen tonight in buoyant mood after Friday's win kept them top of the French league with a comfortable five-point lead.
"The primary goal before the Leverkusen match was to take the three points," said PSG coach Laurent Blanc. "The players were thinking about Leverkusen, but they ignored that and got the job done."