Bayer Leverkusen v Manchester United: David Moyes should be confident of taking at least a point back to Old Trafford but needs to be wary of Stefan Kiessling
Leverkusen are back in the Champions League after a year's absence and Kiessling will lead their attack after topping the Bundesliga goalscorer charts last season
Manchester United kick-off their Champions League campaign with a potentially tricky away trip to Bayer Leverkusen, but the record suggests David Moyes should be confident of coming away from the North Rhine-Westphalia with at least a point.
United have never lost to Leverkusen, and they are not the same side that progressed to the 2002 Champions League final after beating United on away goals. Since then, they have suffered a considerable downfall in the Bundesliga that saw them scrape clear from relegation, and then rebuild the club to finish third, just one-point behind runners-up Borussia Dortmund.
The two sides played out a 2-2 draw the first time they met, with goals from Ruud van Nistlerooy and a Boris Zivkovic own goal cancelled out by Michael Ballack and Oliver Neuville.
The return leg saw a 1-1 draw, with Neuville scoring another to equalise after United captain Roy Keane had given Sir Alex Ferguson’s side the lead. Leverkusen would hold on to win on away goals, before losing out to Real Madrid after Zinedine Zidane scored his now-famous volley to win 2-1.
Both sides were drawn in Group F, where United would gain revenge over the German side for the semi-final exit earlier that year.
United won the first meeting 2-1 after two goals from van Nistlerooy was enough to see off Dimitar Berbatov’s consolation – it would be six more year’s until the Bulgarian would be running out at Old Trafford in a home shirt.
The second meeting that season was a simpler affair, with goals from Juan Sebastian Veron and (you guessed it) van Nistlerooy again easing United to a home victory. Van Nistlerooy scored an impressive four goals in four meetings between the two sides, and the Dutchman was a key reason in why United have won nearly half of their matches against German opposition, with seven goals in eight games.
But now Leverkusen are back in the European elite competition after missing out last season, and under the guidance of former Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia, they will be looking to take advantage of Moyes first venture into the Champions League.
Striker Stefan Kiessling has scored four goals in five games in the Bundesliga – as has midfielder Sidney Sam – and the 29-year-old scored a double in the weekend’s 3-1 victory over Wolfsburg. Moyes will need to be wary in the return fixture between the two sides, as Kiessling scored 14 of his 26 goals away from home last season, and finished as the German top flight’s leading scorer.
Leverkusen have a poor record against English sides, winning just three of their 17 matches, scoring just 19 times and conceding a concerning 33 goals.
However, they were in Chelsea’s group in their 2011-12 Champions League triumph, and even beat the Blues in Leverkusen 2-1 thanks to goals from Eren Derdiyok and Manuel Friedrich. They have also claimed the scalps of Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers in the past, but they have never won away from home against an English side.
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