Bayer Leverkusen and Inter face off tonight in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League. Both teams had to negotiate tricky round of 16 ties to qualify for this stage and will be looking to progress to the semi-finals of the competition. The Europa League this season has had its usual format changed from the quarter-finals onwards due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic as teams are expected to play one-legged ties in a suppressed tournament that should see the competition rounded up in less than two weeks.
Bayer Leverkusen ended their league campaign with a fifth-place finish which means that they wouldn’t be playing in the Champions League next season, the Europa League however ensures that their hopes of playing in European clubs’ biggest competition remain valid as a win against Inter takes them one step closer to their target of winning the trophy, a feat that guarantees automatic qualification to the Champions League for the 2020/21 season. The Germans saw off Scottish side, Rangers over two legs, and will be hoping for a tie against Inter to be just as straightforward.
Inter survived an early scare against Getafe to record a 2-0 victory in the previous round, the Italian team will want to improve on the lapses from that game when they take on the team from Germany. The Nerazzurri finished second in the Italian Serie A, one point off champions, Juventus. The club has witnessed a steady improvement under Coach Antonio Conte this season and would be looking to win the Europa League as a reward for their efforts. Inter are yet to win any trophy since its Coppa Italia triumph against Palermo nine years ago and would be hoping that success in the Europa League this year will kick start a new winning era for the club.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kai Havertz is obviously the danger man in terms of output. The German has had a hand in twenty four goals (17 goals, 7 assists) for Bayer across all competitions this season, his ability to play across all positions in attack could prove dangerous against Inter and on his day, he could be a handful. The pace of Leon Bailey and Kevin Volland could also hurt the Italians on the break and Antonio Conte’s men would need to be pay special attention to these players if they are to prevent them from having any effect on the game.
Romelu Lukaku has been outstanding for Inter this season. Thirty goals and five assists in all competitions for the former Manchester United striker makes him Inter’s go-to man when in need of goals. His ability to hold-up play and bring his teammates into play is also an advantage for his team as his presence basically makes other play well. Lautaro Martinez is also one to watch out for while Antonio Conte can count on Christian Eriksen to come off the bench to cause some damage to the opposition.
Inter are expected to be without Uruguayan midfielder, Mattias Vecino who is recovering from a surgery on his injured Knee.
Paulinho will be missing for Bayer Leverkusen. The midfielder has been out since the beginning of July with a cruciate ligament rupture.
BAYER LEVERKUSEN: Hradecky; Singraven, Tapsoba, S. Bender, L. Bender; Demibray, Palacios; Diaby, Wirtz, Havertz; Volland (4-2-3-1) Coach: Peter Bosz
INTER: Handanovic; Godin, De Vrij, Skriniar; Candreva, Gagliardini, Brozovic, Barella, Young; Martinez, Lukaki (3-5-2) Coach: Antonio Conte
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