Leverkusen can advance by beating Chelsea in Champions League

In his 100th European appearance, Michael Ballack has a chance to lead Bayer Leverkusen into the knockout round of the Champions League with a win over his former club Chelsea.

Updated: November 22, 2011 19:50 IST
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Leverkusen: In his 100th European appearance, Michael Ballack has a chance to lead Bayer Leverkusen into the knockout round of the Champions League with a win over his former club Chelsea.

Leverkusen can make sure of advancing by beating Chelsea on Wednesday, no matter what happens in the other Group E match between Valencia and Genk.

"It is a special situation," the 35-year-old former Germany captain said. "I am really looking forward to the match against my former club.

"To play against such top clubs as Chelsea here in our own stadium is something we've long yearned for in Leverkusen. And that it's happening on my century is fitting."

In 94 Champions League games for four clubs, Ballack has 17 goals. Ballack played the most Champions League matches for Chelsea - 33 - but has the most goals for Leverkusen - 9. He also has five Europa League games for Leverkusen.

"I am proud to have had so many matches in the Champions League. There have been fantastic moments and I hope it's going to be the same on Wednesday," Ballack said.

He was a Champions League finalist with both Chelsea and Leverkusen, in his first stint with the German club.

Ballack struggled with injury last season in Leverkusen after leaving Chelsea and was dropped by Germany coach Joachim Loew. But he has come back strongly this season and scored again in Leverkusen's 2-0 win at Kaiserslautern in the Bundesliga last weekend.

Leverkusen have been inconsistent in the Bundesliga but are on the verge of making the knockout stage of the Champions League in Robin Dutt's first season as coach.

Ballack has criticized his current teammates for a lack of ambition, saying Leverkusen were like a "land of milk and honey" for the players. He has indicated he will leave when his contract with Leverkusen expires in the summer, although he's said he wants to play another season or two.

He acknowledged Leverkusen has been doing well in the Champions League.

"We won both home games and now we want to win the third," Ballack said. "Chelsea is aware of what's at stake and great clubs play the best when they are under pressure. That makes Chelsea even more dangerous.

"But we can be confident, too, we have enough quality to advance."

Chelsea can also advance with a win, and if Valencia fail to beat Genk at home at the same time then Chelsea would be sure of topping the group. If Leverkusen and Chelsea draw and Valencia lose, Chelsea also would be through.

Sunday's 2-1 home defeat to Liverpool was Chelsea's fourth loss of the season and left the 2010 English champion 12 points behind leader Manchester City in fourth place.

Captain John Terry is among those attracting criticism from commentators for the errors that have led to the 17 goals conceded in 12 matches - more than any other side in England's top six.

"The amount of goals that we are conceding is something that worries of course," manager Andre Villas-Boas said. "We need to organize a little bit better. When you go into a situation like this, conceding goals and being so low in the league, you focus on the details that we have to get right and we know where we have to improve.

"We are a team that does not concede a lot of opportunities but the opponent has found the efficiency that we haven't found yet."

After leaving him on the bench against his old club, Villas-Boas could recall Fernando Torres in attack against Leverkusen.

With two rounds remaining, Chelsea lead the group with 8 points, ahead of Leverkusen with 6. Valencia have 5 and Genk are last with 2.

Valencia are coming off a tense and heated 3-2 loss to Real Madrid.

France fullback Jeremy Mathieu said Valencia were encouraged despite the loss.

"If we continue playing the way we did in the second half we can achieve great things. Right now the Genk game is the only thing on our mind and reaching the next stage of the Champions League is the most important thing," Mathieu said.

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