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Rolfes plays down prospects in Spain

Simon Rolfes

Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Simon Rolfes insists the Bundesliga team remain the underdogs in their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie against Atletico Madrid.

Hakan Calhanoglu scored the only goal in last month's first leg at the BayArena, giving Roger Schmidt's side a slender advantage over last season's beaten finalists.

On Friday, they enjoyed ideal preparation for the second meeting with a 4-0 win over struggling Stuttgart.

Rolfes has urged his team-mates to retain such attacking intent at the Vicente Calderon on Tuesday, but is happy to play down their prospects.

"We're in a great position to reach the next round [of the Champions League]," he told. 

"We're not the favourites but we can't allow ourselves to defend the whole time. We've got to make Atletico Madrid’s life really difficult."

Atletico have only twice overturned a 1-0 away leg deficit in UEFA competition, but a formidable record of 20 wins in their last 22 European outings on home turf offers plenty of encouragement.

For Diego Simeone and his players, the match represents a welcome break from their faltering La Liga campaign after Espanyol held the reigning champions to a third consecutive draw at the weekend.

The Argentinian coach remains defiant over his team's form, though.

"We have not lost anything because the season is not over yet," Simeone said.

"It is true we are finding it hard to score, but more worrying would be to not have any chances. I am happy with their work. 

"Now it is time to regroup, to wait for Tuesday's game, and to keep working. That is the only path we know."

Calhanoglu came back into the Leverkusen line-up last time out having missed his first matches of the season earlier this month due to a knee complaint. Fellow midfielder Lars Bender (ankle) has been sidelined for the past three games.

Defender Diego Godin and midfielder Tiago Mendes are suspended for Atletico. Key man Koke is back having missed the first leg due to a hamstring problem, while Cristian Ansaldi - an unused sub against Espanyol - could make his first appearance since November following an ankle injury.

 

 

 

Tags: Atletico Madrid | Bayer Leverkusen | Simon Rolfes | UEFA Champions League

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