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Preview: Qarabag FK vs. Bayer Leverkusen - prediction, team news, lineups

sportsmole.co.uk, 7 November 2023, 20:00
Bayer Leverkusen make the long trip to face Qarabag FK in the Europa League on Thursday night looking to secure their progress through to the knockout stages.

However, with the home side sitting just three points adrift of the Bundesliga giants in Group H, they can leave the top-two positions in doubt heading into the final two fixtures.

Match preview

While Xabi Alonso would have had high hopes for his vastly-talented Bayer Leverkusen squad ahead of 2023-24, he could not have envisaged their current run.

A total of 14 wins have been recorded in 15 outings - their only draw coming at Bayern Munich - and it has left Leverkusen at the top of the Bundesliga table.

Alonso's men have certainly not had things all their own way with their most recent three top-flight victories coming by one-goal margins, four goals being conceded in the process.

In the Europa League, though, it has largely been a different story, wins over Hacken, Molde and Qarabag being recorded with 11 goals being netted.

The reverse encounter with Qarabag two weeks ago was one-way traffic, at least from the 29th minute onwards as Leverkusen defied an equaliser from their opponents before running out 5-1 victors.

Gurban Gurbanov would have taken the positives from how his side matched up to their most illustrious hosts in Germany, aware that it was somewhat of a free shot at causing an upset.

Qarabag had previously posted 1-0 triumphs over the other two teams in the group, netting decisive goals in the second half of each fixture.

Gurbanov will take a similar attitude into this fixture given the gulf in class, yet Qarabag did not lose a single Europa League home game in the group stages in 2022-23, avoiding defeat to Nantes, Olympiacos and Freiburg respectively.

On the domestic scene, Qarabag warmed up for this contest with a 7-1 win over Kapaz on Saturday, keeping them within one point of Azerbaijani top-flight leaders Zira after 12 matches.

Qarabag FK Europa League form:

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Qarabag FK form (all competitions):

Bayer Leverkusen Europa League form:

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Bayer Leverkusen form (all competitions):

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Team News

Having scored a hat-trick for Qarabag in the league at the weekend, Yassine Benzia should start in a creative position in the final third.

Defender Matheus Silva looks likely to miss out, with Toral Bayramov in line to get the nod at right-back.

Alonso is expected to ring the changes to his Leverkusen XI and select a team similar to the one that started the reverse fixture two weeks ago.

That would see the likes of Matej Kovar, Piero Hincapie, Robert Andrich, Amine Adli and Nathan Tella all handed starting roles.

Adam Hlozek could also get the nod ahead of Victor Boniface, while Odilon Kossounou is likely to miss out after picking up an injury versus Hoffenheim.

Qarabag FK possible starting lineup:

Lunev; Bayramov; Mustafazada, Medina, Cafarquiliyev; Jankovic, Romao; L.Andrade, Benzia, Zoubir; Juninho

Bayer Leverkusen possible starting lineup:

Kovar; Stanisic, Tapsoba, Hincapie, Grimaldo; Xhaka, Andrich; Tella, Wirtz, Adli; Hlozek

We say: Qarabag FK 1-4 Bayer Leverkusen

While Qarabag are capable of defeating the majority of opposition on home territory, they may struggle to contain a free-flowing Leverkusen. We feel that the visitors will make a fast start to this contest and ultimately cruise to victory and qualification in the process.

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