Bayer Leverkusen vs. Barcelona  1 - 3

Article

Guardiola thrilled with away win

15 February 2012 18:41

A satisfied Pep Guardiola hailed his Barcelona team after their 3-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League on Tuesday.

An Alexis Sanchez brace and a goal from Lionel Messi helped the European champions to the round-of-16 first-leg win at BayArena.

Guardiola, whose team have slipped 10 points adrift of Real Madrid in La Liga, said he was happy with his side's performance in Germany.

"In the art of competing, my team showed they are doing well. This is the Champions League and we came to Germany to face a team that practically eliminated Valencia, and we all know about (the quality of) Valencia," Guardiola said.

"We are very satisfied with what we have done here tonight. We are a little bit closer to getting into the draw for the quarter-finals."

Michal Kadlec briefly levelled proceedings in the second half, but Sanchez restored his team's advantage before Messi struck late on.

Guardiola praised Sanchez and Messi, and said the latter was dealing well with the goalscoring expectations he carries.

"As a player I hardly ever scored so I can't speak from experience, but I imagine goalscorers need to score," he said.

"Messi has no problems dealing with these things though. He scored a really wonderful goal and was involved in many moves. He's continuing to show his strength which for us is vital."

"Alexis is putting in a lot of work and is scoring a lot. He opens up the pitch for us and his movement is great. I'm very happy for him. He's a very humble guy."

Barcelona's Daniel Alves felt his side deserved to win, although he praised Leverkusen's organisation and second-half effort.

"The truth is that we deserved to win," Alves said.

"We weren't as fluent because in front of us, we had a team who were well organised on the pitch. In the second half they looked the more dangerous side and created chances to score. We just took our opportunities."

Meanwhile, Bayer Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt refused to concede the tie was over despite heading to the Camp Nou with a 3-1 deficit.

The hosts were on the back foot for the majority of the first half, before working their way into the contest after the interval.

"During the break I asked my players to take the initiative and participate in the match. In the second half, we caused Barcelona problems," Dutt said.

"For 15 minutes, we were the better team and played some really good football. For the match at the Camp Nou, normally we wouldn't have a chance but you never know."

"A few years ago I watched Barcelona beat Basel (5-0) in Switzerland, but they drew 1-1 in the second game in Spain, so anything is possible."

Leverkusen defender Gonzalo Castro said it was a great experience to play against the Catalan giants.

"It was very special," Castro said. "I think they are the best team in the world, they proved it in the last two or three years and they have won everything in the club competitions."

Article

Champions League: Bayer Leverkusen 1 Barcelona 3

14 February 2012 23:11

Barcelona moved closer to the Champions League quarter-finals with a 3-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen in their round-of-16 first-leg clash on Tuesday.

Home side Leverkusen did well to limit the Catalans' opportunities in the first half at BayArena, but Alexis Sanchez broke the deadlock on 41 minutes to give the champions a crucial edge at the interval.

Leverkusen responded positively after the break, and drew level through Michal Kadlec, but Sanchez restored Barca's lead in the 55th minute.

Lionel Messi scored a critical third for the Catalans late on, leaving Leverkusen with a mountain to climb on their trip to Camp Nou.

The hosts were content to sit back and defend early on, as Barca took the majority of possession in the first half.

But for all their time on the ball, the visitors found it difficult to break down their opponents, who rarely ventured out of their defending half.

Play opened up for Barca on 13 minutes as Sanchez found space on the right to send a low cross towards Messi, but Daniel Schwaab was alert to the danger and made a sliding intervention to concede a corner.

The visitors looked likely to head to the interval frustrated, but with four minutes left to play in the opening half, they found a chance to counter-attack and took the opportunity clinically.

Messi was the provider for Sanchez as the Argentine floated a lovely ball over the top, and his team-mate coolly slotted his finish into the lower-left corner of the net.

In need of a goal, Leverkusen played far more positively in the second half, and were rewarded on 52 minutes as Kadlec rose to nod Vedran Corluka's cross into Victor Valdes' net.

The sides would only remain level for three minutes, however. At the other end, Cesc Fabregas threaded a well-weighted ball to Sanchez, who rounded Bernd Leno before sliding home to restore the visitors' lead.

The German side again responded aggressively, and came within an inch of restoring parity for a second time. Renato Augusto tested Valdes' once before playing in Gonzalo Castro, who had his low shot tipped onto the post by the goalkeeper in the 64th minute.

Barca soon regained their composure in defence, and almost made it 3-1 thanks to a flash of brilliance from Messi with 18 minutes to play.

The talismanic forward beat two defenders near the by-line before chipping Leno, but his shot clanged off the post.

Both sides had chances for late goals, with substitute Stefan Kiessling's header forcing a good save from Valdes before Sanchez was denied his hat-trick as Leno made a spectacular diving stop.

But Messi put the result beyond doubt with two minutes to play as he extended his leg to redirect Dani Alves' cross into the net.

The result sees Barcelona take a two-goal lead into the second leg of the fixture, which will be played at Camp Nou on March 7.

Article

Champions League preview: Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona

14 February 2012 03:33

Bayer Leverkusen will be hoping to extend their impressive home record in the Champions League when they host Barcelona on Tuesday.

The Bundesliga outfit progressed from Group E in second place, thanks to three home wins against Chelsea, Valencia and Genk.

Robin Dutt's side have won seven of their last eight matches at the BayArena in Europe's premier club competition, but that will be tough to extend against last year's Champions League winners.

Leverkusen have been in poor form domestically though and have won just one of their last six Bundesliga fixtures.

With just 28 goals in 21 league fixtures, Leverkusen's lack of goals has hurt them on the table and the likes of Eren Derdiyok (six goals), Stefan Kiessling (four) and Andre Schurrle (two) have failed to be prolific in front of goal.

In their six Champions League fixtures, their eight goals have been scored by seven players with Derdiyok the only player to have netted on multiple occasions.

And against a Barcelona side that are averaging four goals per game on the road in this season's Champions League, Dutt's men simply must score goals if they want to progress over two legs.

Leverkusen's bid to make the last eight for the first time since 2001-02 - when they lost the final to Real Madrid - suffered a blow when it was revealed veteran midfielder Michael Ballack will miss the first leg with a calf injury.

The German international suffered the injury in training on Sunday, while Derdiyok and Sidney Sam have also been ruled out.

Barcelona will recall midfielder Sergio Busquets back into their squad after a knee injury while the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta will be fresh after sitting out Saturday's shock 3-2 loss at Osasuna.

Cesc Fabregas was only called on for the last 20 minutes in that match as Barca boss Pep Guardiola kept his eye firmly on the Champions League tie in Germany.

The defeat means the Catalans are now 10 points behind Real Madrid in the race for the La Liga title, meaning Guardiola's attention is likely to shift to the Champions League permanently as they attempt to be the first side to retain the trophy since AC Milan in 1990.

Barcelona have not lost in Germany in their last seven attempts, with a 2-1 defeat at Leverkusen in 2001 being the last time they suffered defeat in the country.

Article

Ballack out of Barca clash

13 February 2012 02:42

Bayer Leverkusen will be without midfielder Michael Ballack for Tuesday's Champions League match against Barcelona.

The former Germany international injured his calf muscle in training on Sunday and limped off the pitch to undergo treatment.

He has since been ruled out of the first leg of the round-of-16 tie against the defending champions at the BayArena.

It is not yet known exactly how long the 35-year-old will be unavailable.

Ballack was left on the bench for the third straight match in Leverkusen's 1-0 loss to leaders Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

Sidney Sam and Eren Derdiyok are also due to sit out the Champions League clash due to injury.

Article

Castro awaits Barca visit

10 February 2012 14:00

Gonzalo Castro says Barcelona are hot favourites to progress from their Champions League round-of-16 tie with his Bayer Leverkusen team.

Fullback Castro, 24, is hopeful of recording a positive result in the first leg at the BayArena on Tuesday, but realises his side face a tough task in the return against the reigning champions at Camp Nou.

"Barcelona are the clear favourites, but we will try to make things as difficult as possible for them," Castro said to COMRadio.

"We might be able to get a good result in the home game, but it will be very difficult at Camp Nou."

"In Tuesday's home match, things could be more difficult for them if we have some luck, and if Barcelona are having a bad day."

"We are a team that likes to play football. We're not interested in making a lot of fouls. We always want to play football and win."

Bundesliga table

# Team MP D P
3 9 +7 17
4 9 +6 17
5 9 +3 16
6 9 +2 14
7 9 -5 13

Primera División table

# Team MP D P
1 9 +20 22
2 9 +8 22
3 9 +23 21
4 9 +12 20
5 9 +8 20