FC Barcelona vs. Bayer Leverkusen: 10 Predictions for UCL Last 16 Tie
Some Barcelona players are certainly happy about it. While there are some interesting ties elsewhere in the competition—Chelsea vs. Napoli and Arsenal vs. AC Milan are the two that come to mind—all eyes will be on the defending champions.
These two teams have some history in the Champions league as they met in the first group stages back in the 2001/02 season and the second group stages in 2002/03.
The first time around, both teams came away with 2-1 victories when playing on their home turf. A year later, Barcelona came out on top both at home and away.
Here are 10 predictions for the UCL last 16 Tie between Barcelona and Bayer Leverkusen.
Tight Game in Germany
Barcelona is undoubtedly the favourite and expectant winners, but Bayer Leverkusen will not make it easy for them. Leverkusen hasn't exactly been a defensive wall during its European campaign so far but most of those goals they conceded came in away games.
The knockout stages will be all about damage limitation for Bayer Leverkusen, and they will make Barcelona work their hardest to get that important away goal. If they play at home first it will be even tougher for the Catalans.
19-year-old Bernd Leno has filled in for Rene Adler and has played admirably in the league with seven shutouts in 15 league games so far. If he continues his impressive form. Leverkusen has a solid keeper to help fend of Barcelona's attacks.
Barcelona Blowout at Nou Camp
The goals have come in bunches for Barcelona this year, and they may be pouring out again when the Champions league restarts. Barcelona may not dominate the away fixture, but whenever they play at home they will put the tie beyond any doubt.
If the away fixture comes first and Barcelona scores an away goal or two Leverkusen will have to come out and replicate that, and this will open up many chances for the team.
Even if the fixtures are reversed Leverkusen will still have to be mindful that Barcelona could go to Germany and score all the goals they need so they may be tempted to get one of their own.
Barcelona has been almost unstoppable at home and they will find a way to score.
Messi Hat Trick at Nou Camp
Lionel Messi has four hat tricks to his name so far this season, and while it is always likely that he will get a fifth before this Champions league tie comes around, Bayer Leverkusen will give him a chance for another.
Other than games against Sevilla and AC Milan—Barcelona has been rampant at home—especially in the league.
Leverkusen's Attackers Will Be Neutralized
André Schürrle is an exciting talent and Eren Derdiyok and Stefan Kießling can do a decent job in front of goal but they will not be very effective against the Blaugrana.
Eren Derdiyok leads the club with nine goals in 20 games but only two of those came in European play. They may get one or two chances but it is unlikely that Derdiyok or any of the other players will add to their tallies against Barcelona.
Barcelona's possession and the shot-stopping skills of Victor Valdes will render the likes of Deridyok and Kießling as spectators and Schürrle will be too busy on the defensive end to help.
Pep Guardiola Will Play 3-4-3 at Some Point
If things are not going well or if Pep Guardiola just thinks something fresh is needed, 3-4-3 will come into play at some point in the tie.
The Barcelona manager has tinkered with this formation in a more defined way in various games this season. He could use it as something to throw off his opponent.
Bayer Leverkusen Will Match Barcelona's Three in the Middle
Bayer Leverkusen has Michael Ballack, Simon Rolfes, Lars Bender and Renato Augusto to help clog the middle of the field. With the first three likely to get starting roles, Augusto can come of the bench to provide fresh legs and a more attacking approach if needed.
Bender and Rolfes will share the defensive load with Ballack being more of a box-to-box player. As good as these three are—though Ballack and Rolfes are on the wrong side of 30—it will be very tough for them to keep up with Barcelona.
Isaac Cuenca Will Play in One of the Two Legs
With David Villa's unfortunate recent injury, the chances will open up a player like Isaac Cuenca. Cuenca has been a very bright player on the pitch for Barcelona this season and looks like the next big thing from 'La Masia.'
Cuenca has scored a couple goals and assists while appearing in both the Champions league and La Liga. Given Barcelona's surrounding fixtures and the fitness of the other forward players on the team at that time, Cuenca could be given his chance.
Micheal Ballack Will Score a Set-Piece Goal
The game may be a blowout in Spain and it may be tight in Germany, but that doesn't mean Leverkusen won't have the occasional chance.
Ballack is a pretty solid free-kick taker and a good header of the ball. If Leverkusen is able to get the ball in a good position for either a dangerous free kick or a corner, Ballack will be dangerman No. 1 for the German side.
Barcelona's New Boys Will Be Deciding Factors
Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas have done well for Barcelona so far this season and repaid Pep Guardiola for his faith in them with a goal each against Real Madrid.
Both players have handed out assists and goals and Fabregas especially has given the team a good goal-scoring threat from the midfield.
Sanchez and Fabregas will continue to play a big part in the team's season and they will be important pieces in the start of Barcelona's quest to retain its Champions League title
There Will Be No Controversy in the Tie
There is the general feeling from most Barcelona critics and so on that Barcelona usually gets the favourable decision in Spain and Europe.
A missed offside, a wrongly awarded penalty or a dubious red card are among some of actions that inevitably help Barcelona win an important game. I don't think this will be the case in this tie.
Of course, no one can be completely certain whether the referee and his assistants in charge will be completely accurate, but I do not see these Leverkusen games as ones that will be cause for some type of controversy.