Bayer Leverkusen have the opportunity to end Italian interest in the 2021/22 UEFA Europa League as they host Atalanta needing to overturn a 3-2 deficit from the first leg of their round of 16 tie.
• Leverkusen ensured top spot in UEFA Europa League Group G and direct access to the round of 16 with a game to spare, accumulating 13 points at the expense of Real Betis, Celtic and Ferencváros before ceding their unbeaten record with a Matchday 6 defeat in Hungary .
• Atalanta entered this competition after failing to make it three successful UEFA Champions League group stage campaigns in a row as they lost their win-or-bust final Group F fixture 2-3 at home to Villarreal, thereby remaining in third place, four points behind their Spanish conquerors and five adrift of section winners Manchester United. They made light work of Olympiacos in the knockout round play-offs, however, winning 2-1 at home and 3-0 away.
Leverkusen vs Atalanta: the latest from the match
• The first leg in Bergamo produced a five-goal thriller, Leverkusen taking an early lead through Charles Aránguiz before Atalanta’s Ruslan Malinovskyi equalized. The Ukrainian international then turned provider, setting up two fine goals either side of the interval from Luis Muriel, only for the visitors to reduce the arrears when Moussa Diaby struck his fourth goal in his last three UEFA Europa League starts to make the final score 3 -2.
• This is Leverkusen’s 23rd encounter with Italian opposition. They have won just five of the previous 22 (D5 L12), losing the last five, including 2-1 to Inter in the 2019/20 UEFA Europa League quarter-final in Düsseldorf. While the Werkself’s overall record in two-legged ties against Italian teams is W2 L2, their record in home games is also evenly balanced at W4 D2 L4, the most recent such fixture ending in a 0-2 defeat against Juventus on Matchday 6 of the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League.
• Although Atalanta had not met Leverkusen until the first leg, this is their second tie in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase against Bundesliga opposition, the first, against Borussia Dortmund in the 2017/18 round of 32, having ended in defeat (2- 3 a, 1-1 h). The Bergamo side’s only other UEFA contest with a German club came in the third round of the 1990/91 UEFA Cup, when they beat Cologne 2-1 on aggregate (1-1 a, 1-0 h). They are therefore seeking their first win in Germany.
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• Sixth place in the 2020/21 Bundesliga earned Leverkusen a fourth successive participation in the UEFA Europa League. They were quarter-finalists in 2019/20 – after finishing third in their UEFA Champions League group – and lost in the round of 32 last season, succumbing to Swiss champions Young Boys (3-4 a, 0-2 h), whose coach Gerardo Seoane is now in charge at the BayArena.
• This is the club’s seventh appearance in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase – a German record. They have never failed to progress from the group stage, and have now topped their section three times in a row, including last season when, under former coach Peter Bosz, they amassed 15 points and scored 21 goals – one shy of Napoli’s competition record – in dominating a section that also featured Slavia Praha, Nice and Hapoel Beer-Sheva. This term they found the net 14 times, including 4-0 wins away to Celtic and at home to Betis.
• Leverkusen are competing in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 for the fourth time. They lost both of their first two ties to Villarreal (2-3 h, 1-2 a in 2010/11; 0-2 a, 0-0 h in 2015/16) but made it third time lucky two seasons ago against Rangers (3-1 a, 1-0 h) before losing that quarter-final to Inter.
• The Rhinelanders’ overall home record in the UEFA Europa League, play-offs included, is W17 D5 L3, the defeat last spring to Young Boys ending an 11-match unbeaten home run in the competition (W8 D3). They won all three group games at the BayArena in the autumn – 2-1 against Ferencváros and 3-2 against Celtic as well as that 4-0 success against Betis.
• Leverkusen have won four of the eight UEFA ties in which they lost the first leg away, most famously in the first instance when they went down 3-0 at Espanyol in the first leg of the 1987/88 UEFA Cup final, only to win by the same scoreline in Germany before taking the trophy on penalties. Their other three aggregate wins have all come when they lost the first leg by a one-goal margin, though they were defeated in the most recent case, by Seoane’s Young Boys side last season. They have never previously lost the first away leg 3-2.
• Atalanta finished third in last season’s Serie A to qualify for a third successive appearance in the UEFA Champions League group stage. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side were also runners-up to Juventus in the Coppa Italia, losing 2-1 in the final in Reggio Emilia.
• The Bergamo club had never featured in the UEFA Champions League before 2019/20, when they reached the quarter-finals on debut before falling to Paris Saint-Germain. They again reached the knockout phase in 2020/21, losing to Real Madrid in the last 16, but were unable to complete the hat-trick this term, managing just one win in their six group games – 1-0 at home to bottom- placed Young Boys – and finishing with six points.
• This is Atalanta’s first appearance in the UEFA Europa League round of 16, their only previous knockout phase participation having been ended by Dortmund in the round of 32 four years ago.
• The team from northern Italy ended a run of four European matches without an away win (D2 L2), having won all of the previous five, when they defeated Olympiacos in Piraeus last time out. They have nevertheless scored ten goals in their four away games this season, seven in their UEFA Champions League group, where they drew at Villarreal (2-2) and Young Boys (3-3) either side of a 3-2 defeat at Manchester United.
• Atalanta’s record when winning the home first leg in UEFA competition is W3 L1, their round of 32 success against Olympiacos the most recent such instance. This is the first time they have traveled to the second leg of a European tie with a 3-2 advantage.
UEFA Europa League squad changes
In: Sardar Azmoun (Zenith), Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Lennart Grill
Out: Nadiem Amiri (Genoa, loan), Panagiotis Retsos (Verona), Emrehan Gedikli (Trabzonspor)
In: Jérémie Boga (Sassuolo, loan), Valentin Mihăilă (Parma, loan)
Out: Robin Gosens (Inter, loan), Josip Iličić, Matteo Lovato (Cagliari, loan), Roberto Piccoli (Genoa, loan)
Links and trivia
Leverkusen striker Patrik Schick played in Italy for Sampdoria (2016/17) and Roma (2017–19), failing to score in three appearances against Atalanta (D1 L2). His team-mate Diaby also played two Serie A games for Crotone in 2018.
• Atalanta forward Muriel was Schick’s strike partner at Sampdoria. The pair were the Genoa club’s joint top Serie A scorers in 2016/17 with 11 goals apiece.
Leverkusen’s Daley Sinkgraven and Atalanta’s Marten de Roon were Heerenveen team-mates from 2013 to 2015.
• International team-mates:
Odilon Kossounou & Jeremie Boga (Ivory Coast)
Lucas Alario, Exequiel Palacios & Juan Musso (Argentina)
Andrei Lunev & Aleksei Miranchuk (Russia)
• Leverkusen have played more matches (50) and registered more wins (28) than any other German club in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final. They have also scored more goals (98) and are bidding to become the 14th club to reach a century in the competition.
• Leverkusen are one of five clubs involved in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 that have previously lifted the trophy, in their case in its former guise as the UEFA Cup (1988).
Leverkusen’s record in three UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W1 L2:
3-2 v Espanyol, 1987/88 UEFA Cup final
3-5 v Tirol Innsbruck, 1995 UEFA Intertoto Cup quarter-final
2-3 v Atlético de Madrid, 2014/15 UEFA Champions League round of 16
• Atalanta have yet to feature in a UEFA penalty shoot-out.
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