Sidney Sam says Bayer 04 Leverkusen gave Chelsea FC a test when they lost 2-0 in London and believes with Michael Ballack in harness they can beat the Blues on Wednesday to qualify.
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Winger Sidney Sam hopes Bayer 04 Leverkusen can improve on their matchday one result when Chelsea FC come to the BayArena on Wednesday, believes that Michael Ballack's UEFA Champions League nous is proving to be a big asset for his side.
Leverkusen lost their Group E opener 2-0 despite putting in an impressive showing at Stamford Bridge, but have recovered to lie second in the section, two points behind Chelsea, and a win would book their round of 16 place. While André Villas-Boas's team possess the firepower to hurt any team in Europe, the 23-year-old Sam was impressed enough by what Leverkusen produced in London to believe that the Blues could be in for a shock.
"Chelsea are a tight team; they are a team with big names," he said. "That's what characterises them. They are very robust and play well. They play the ball up front very quickly and directly. They are a great team. We did quite well there at Chelsea and might have got a bit more, maybe a draw. But now we play Chelsea at home."
Sam was on target as Leverkusen won 2-0 at 1. FC Kaiserslautern in the Bundesliga on Friday night, and believes getting their domestic fixtures out of the way a day early may also prove to be an advantage as Chelsea come calling. "We want to win the game," he said, with his side sure to benefit from that extra day's rest. "We'll give everything."
The presence of midfielder Ballack, a Chelsea player from 2006 until last year, is also a major factor in Leverkusen's favour; at 35 he remains a top performer, and his presence is helping his less experienced team-mates no end. "Michael Ballack has international experience and is a great player, and he can help us young players," explained Sam.
"When it is not going too well, he is there and he pushes the team; he is a leader and any team could do with him," he added, noting of his unique angle on their upcoming opponents. "Of course, he has been giving us advice. Chelsea is his old club and he can help us."
Wise counsel has helped Sam come on in leaps and bounds since he came to Leverkusen in 2010. The one-time Hamburger SV trainee had been playing in the second tier with 1. FC Kaiserslautern in 2010, but is continuing to progress under Robin Dutt, having been given plenty of playing time by his predecessor Jupp Heynckes last season.
"At the beginning, it was difficult for me," admitted the former German Under-21 international. "Then I scored my first goals and started feeling very good here, off the football pitch as well. And I feel very good here now."