Bundesliga commentator Kev's on home turf tonight, and he thinks Bayer Leverkusen's Champions League dream will be shattered by the European champions...
"Bayer have won just one of their last seven games, and they've leaked 19 goals in their last ten matches."
Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona
Wednesday December 09, 19:45
Live on BT Sport Extra
Galatasaray 1 Astana 1 last night. Good enough for the Turkish giants to secure a Europa League berth, but nowhere near good enough for us. At this rate, I'll be giving people Christmas presents made out of sticks and waste paper.
We move on, and we'll stay with the Champions League. Bayer Leverkusen are facing a make-or-break clash with Barcelona, with their hopes of reaching the last 16 hanging by a gossamer thread.
Leverkusen's campaign has been a catalogue of missed opportunities. They were 1-0 up at Camp Nou with ten minutes to go, but lost 2-1. Roger Schmidt's men were 2-0 up at home to Roma, but ended up having to scramble for a 4-4 draw. They were holding the Italians to a 2-2 draw in the capital with 11 minutes left, but lost 3-2.
Schmidt has put together an exciting young squad, but that inexperience has shone through in this campaign. Players haven't been able to see games out, and have been punished for almost every mistake.
Bayer need to get a better result against Barcelona than Roma manage at home to BATE Borisov, and I simply can't see that happening. Barca will be without the injured Neymar, but suggestions they'll relax because they've already qualified feel wide of the mark. Barca have the chance to stay unbeaten in the group stage for the first time for three years, and they'll have been wounded by conceding a late equaliser at Valencia at the weekend.
Schmidt admits Lionel Messi is pretty much impossible to stop, and if he starts, the master craftsman could prove the difference tonight. He is still short of his magnificent best after returning from injury, but that sharpness in front of goal will soon return - it always does.
Barca coach Luis Enrique is staying tight-lipped about team selection, but he has left Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique at home, while Dani Alves is suspended. Bayer are without suspended skipper Omer Toprak and injured midfielder Lars Bender, and those absences will be keenly felt.
Without Bender to screen the back four, Bayer have really struggled defensively. They have kept just one clean sheet in their last ten matches, and that was in a 6-0 cup win at lower-league Viktoria Koln. If you look at the other nine games in that sequence, you can see Bayer have leaked 19 goals. That leaky rearguard is one of the reasons Leverkusen have won just one of their last seven outings in all competitions, and that's despite the excellent form of striker Javier Hernandez.
At some stage I suspect Luis Suarez and Messi will feature, and they could run riot against a young defence that has promise but makes mistakes. If Roma take an early lead against BATE, that could really deflate Leverkusen, and at above evens, I have to back the European champions.
Back Barcelona at 2.1411/10
2015 P/L (1 pt per bet)
Points Staked: 166
Points Returned: 151.9
P/L: -14.10 points