Bayer Leverkusen and Tottenham are both in need of a win on Tuesday evening, in a very tense Champions League group. Our Bundesliga columnist Kevin Hatchard expects both defences to have a tough night...
"Spurs have scored in every single game this season, while Bayer have only drawn a blank once. Leverkusen aren't defending well, and the visitors are without Toby Aldeweireld."
Bayer Leverkusen v Tottenham Hotspur
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The only thing that's been consistent about Bayer Leverkusen this season has been their inconsistency. They are yet to manage back-to-back victories, and the last week has summed up their fluctuating performance levels. An excellent 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund at the BayArena was followed by a dismal 2-1 reverse at Werder Bremen, and Bayer find themselves four points adrift of the top four.
Coach Roger Schmidt pulled no punches after defeat in Bremen. He accused his players of trying to rely on individual quality, rather than operating as a collective. The problem for Schmidt is that these questions about the squad's mentality have been asked for a long time, and they haven't been adequately answered.
This fragility has carried over into the Champions League. Bayer were sparkling in the opening exchanges of their home game against CSKA Moscow, but blew a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw. The 1-1 draw in Monaco was even more painful - Bayer led 1-0 until the 94th minute, when defender Kamil Glik thumped home a barely believable volley.
There's no question that Schmidt's side are stronger at home than they are on the road. In all competitions, they are unbeaten in ten games on home soil, and they have won seven of those matches.
When Bayer click, they are great to watch, and Chicharito (or Javier Hernandez as you may know him) is their talisman in attack. The Mexican has scored 33 goals in 49 appearances for Die Werkself, and he has spoken in glowing terms recently about his employers. Confined to the role of super-sub at Manchester United and Real Madrid, Chicharito has flourished since Bayer placed their faith in him as a starter.
While Roger Schmidt flounders in search of the right formula at Leverkusen, you sense that Mauricio Pochettino knows exactly what his plan is at Spurs. After his side rescued a draw at West Brom at the weekend, he hailed his players' growing maturity, and I'd have to agree. Having dominated the game at The Hawthorns, Spurs could've folded after going behind courtesy of their former player Nacer Chadli, but they fought back to grab a draw.
Tottenham are unbeaten in the Premier League, but defeat to Monaco in their opening Champions League game has put their backs against the wall. An excellent win in Moscow against CSKA repaired some of the damage, but this is an incredibly tight group with little margin for error.
The injury news is mixed ahead of this trip to the Rhineland. Influential centre-back Toby Aldeweireld was injured at West Brom, so Eric Dier could return to the starting 11 in his place. Harry Kane still isn't fit enough to be considered, while left-back Danny Rose and former Leverkusen forward Heung-Min Son are likely to start, having been rested at the weekend.
I'm delighted that Son has started to show what he is capable of this season, having scored five goals (including a vital winner in Moscow) and set up two more. On his day he can be unplayable, and if the South Korean can finally find some consistency, Spurs will have a world-class player on their hands.
Because Leverkusen are so patchy, this is a difficult market to judge. If Bayer play to their potential, they may well win, but I can't get on board with their price of 2.265/4 for the victory. Spurs seem too big at 3.55 given their unbeaten away record and their victory in Moscow, but without Kane and Aldeweireld they don't seem so attractive.
Both Teams To Score
Backing Both Teams To Score is the bet that jumps out at me, even though the price is only 1.768/11. Both teams like to press relentlessly, which could lead to quite a chaotic, high-tempo encounter. Spurs haven't failed to score in a game this season, while Leverkusen have only drawn a blank once, and they look far better on the front foot than they do when they are defending.
It's not therefore a massive leap to backing Over 2.5 Goals at 1.9620/21, a bet that has paid out in seven of Bayer's ten games this term.
Chicharito is unsurprisingly the favourite to find the net in 90 minutes at 2.56/4, while the in-form Son is 3.814/5 to score against his former employers. England midfielder Dele Alli looks a touch too big at 4.77/2 - he scored the equaliser against West Brom, and netted against both Manchester City and Malta.
Back Both Teams To Score at 1.768/11
Kevin Hatchard 2016-17 Champions League P/L (1 pt per bet)
Points Staked: 4
Points Returned: 5.81
P/L: +1.81 points