It would take something beyond a miracle for Bayer Leverkusen to advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
Paris Saint-Germain won the first leg of the round of 16 between these teams, 4-0, and now it hosts the second leg on its own grounds where it's lost just once this season in all competitions. So yes, Bayer Leverkusen needs something a little beyond a miracle.
But anything can happen in 90 minutes, so the German side isn't eliminated from the proceedings just yet. Let's break down this round of 16 clash.
When: Wednesday at 3:45 p.m. ET (7:45 p.m. GMT)
Where: Parc des Princes, Paris, France
Given its huge cushion and the game being played at home, you couldn't fault PSG for coming into this match confident. But to hear its manager Laurent Blanc talk, you'd think the game itself was a mere formality.
His comments, via Ian Holyman of ESPN:
We're not necessarily afraid of very much. Tomorrow we'll play to win as we have done since the start of the season. We have to confirm what we did very well in the first game. Tomorrow, there is a match to win and we have to prepare ourselves for that. We've been preparing well since Monday and I hope that tomorrow we'll give the best of answers. We're at home so it's up to us to play, create the chances to win the game. We don't have to fear anything.
Presumably, the only thing PSG might fear is complacency heading into the match or a Leverkusen side seething with revenge on the mind. But with a four-goal advantage in aggregate, perhaps even complacency or vengeance isn't to be feared.
According to Holyman's report, Marco Verratti and Blaise Matuidi won't appear for PSG in this contest—with Yohan Cabaye and Adrien Rabiot likely to take their place in the midfield—while star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic should be able to play. Meanwhile, via BBC Sport, Edinson Cavani will return to action after taking personal time, while Leverkusen midfielder Jens Hegeler is out to injury.
Leverkusen likely won't simply throw out its reserves and open the match by waiving the white flag, but after the first leg, you couldn't fault the team for prioritizing the domestic campaign. From Jack Pinnock of The Independent:
Leverkusen's league form is less to be desired, winless in their last four and having won just three of their last 10 games. They currently sit third in the German Bundesliga, four points behind second place Borussia Dortmund and 24 points behind leaders Bayern Munich. On the back of this, Leverkusen will just be playing for pride in France, and security on a top four finish in their respective league will be their main objective.
And hey, who wouldn't enjoy a trip to Paris?
Which team wins?
Even if Leverkusen had a hope of staging a comeback in this Champions League tie, PSG would still be heavily favored. It has far more star power, a very pronounced home-field advantage, and the pressure of hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the roster and the expectations those dollars breed to inspire them.
Leverkusen is a strong team, so it should make this a game or even win. But overcoming a four-goal deficit in Paris?
Not happening. Leverkusen wins, 2-1, but PSG will move on to the quarterfinals.