Champions League

Atletico the favourites - Schmidt

2015-03-17 08:45
Son Heung-Min (AFP)

Madrid - Bayer Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt has insisted that Atletico Madrid remain the favourites in their Champions League last 16 tie, despite the Germans holding a 1-0 lead ahead of the second leg on Tuesday.

Hakan Calhanoglu's spectacular strike handed Schmidt's men a deserved lead against an Atletico side that finished the game with 10 men in a bad tempered affair three weeks ago.

However, Schmidt believes Atletico's supreme home form in Europe and greater experience having reached last season's Champions League final means his side remain the underdogs.

"For me the result we got three weeks ago is a positive one, but we haven't done anything yet," he said on Monday.

"Atletico continue to be the favourites and we'll have to give it our all tomorrow. We know that Atletico are very strong at home."

The La Liga champions have won 20 and drawn one of their last 22 European games at home, but have come unstuck domestically of late and go into Tuesday's game on the back of a four-game winless streak.

A big part of that slump in form has been a lack of discipline with Diego Simeone's men ending three of their last five games with 10 men.

Los Rojiblancos will again be without two key players through suspension against Leverkusen as Diego Godin and Tiago miss out, and Schmidt knows his young side will need to keep their head amongst the cauldron-like atmosphere in the Spanish capital.

"We know that Atletico have a very strong mentality and they fight a lot. In such a heated atmosphere we need to keep a cool head.

"I am not worried about the atmosphere, but excited by it. It is part of the big challenge that faces us.

"If we want to go through, we need to make a huge effort and we need to enjoy the pressure of the atmosphere."

Schmidt also confirmed that German international Lars Bender should be fit to start despite missing Friday's 4-0 win over Stuttgart due to an ankle injury.

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