Bayer 04 Leverkusen are looking to maintain a strong recent record in the UEFA Champions League group stage, starting when they host FC BATE Borisov on matchday one.
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Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC BATE Borisov meet for the first time in their opening UEFA Champions League Group E fixture at the BayArena.
• Fourth in the Bundesliga last term, Leverkusen booked their place in the group stage thanks to a 3-1 aggregate play-off win over SS Lazio. They lost the first leg 1-0 but recovered with a 3-0 home success courtesy of Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Admir Mehmedi and Karim Bellarabi.
• This is the third consecutive UEFA Champions League group stage campaign for Leverkusen, who reached the round of 16 last term before losing on penalties to Club Atlético de Madrid after a 1-1 aggregate draw.
• Leverkusen have a strong record at this stage of the UEFA Champions League, having advanced to the last 16 on each of their last six attempts.
• Including their play-off win over Lazio, Roger Schmidt's men have won five of their last six home fixtures in Europe, conceding just two goals.
• This is Leverkusen's first meeting with opponents from Belarus.
• BATE came through three qualifying rounds to reach the group stage, overcoming the challenge of Dundalk FC (2-1 aggregate), Videoton FC (2-1 agg) and FK Partizan (2-2 agg, away goals). Aleksandr Yermakovich's side won all three home games in those ties but are still seeking an away victory.
• BATE are participating in the UEFA Champions League group stage for the fifth time. They have yet to survive this stage of the competition but in 2012/13 finished third in their section with the help of a famous home win against FC Bayern München.
• The scorers in BATE's 3-1 victory over Bayern in October 2012 included Vitali Rodionov and he is one of seven survivors of that evening in their current squad along with Aleksandr Hleb, Dmitri Likhtarovich, Dmitri Mozolevski, Edgar Olekhnovich, Denis Polyakov and Aleksandr Volodko.
• BATE lost the return game 4-1 at Bayern, but have tasted victory in Germany once before – a 1-0 success at TSV 1860 München in the 2002 UEFA Intertoto Cup in which coach Yermakovich played.
Coach and player links
• During spells in Germany with VfB Stuttgart (2000–05, 2009–10) and VfL Wolfsburg (2011), Hleb faced Leverkusen 11 times, with a record of four wins, one draw and six defeats. He scored against them once – in Stuttgart's 3-0 home league victory in April 2003.
• Nikolai Signevich scored in Belarus's 3-2 friendly win over Javier Hernández's Mexico last November. Ilya Aleksievich, Sergei Chernik, Mikhail Gordeichuk, Igor Stasevich and Maksim Volodko also played for Belarus.
• Admir Mehmedi struck twice for Switzerland in a 3-0 win over a Belarus side containing Dmitri Baga, Vitali Gaiduchik and Polyakov at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Denmark in 2011.
• Players who played together:
Hleb & Roberto Hilbert (Stuttgart 2009–10)
• Leverkusen have conceded only two goals in their last 12 home matches in all competitions.
• Hilbert conceded two penalties as the Werkself lost 3-0 at Bayern on 29 August – their joint biggest margin of defeat under Schmidt.
• Javier Hernández converted a penalty for Mexico in their 2-2 friendly draw against Argentina on 8 September.
• New signing Charles Aránguiz tore his Achilles tendon in training on 20 August, while Ömer Toprak suffered a thigh injury on 1 August. Tin Jedvaj (thigh) has been out since 17 July.
• BATE have lost just three times in 33 matches in 2015.
• Chernik has kept a Vysshaya Liga best 14 clean sheets in 18 appearances this season. BATE did not concede a goal until their 11th game.
• BATE are eight points clear of second-placed FC Dinamo Minsk after 19 matches – at the same stage of the 2014 campaign they trailed the capital club by three points.
• Gordeichuk scored twice against Luxembourg on 8 September as Belarus recorded their second victory in UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group C.
• Nemanja Nikolić has not played since going off just before half-time in BATE's 1-0 loss to Dinamo Minsk on 10 August with an ankle problem. Rodionov was replaced 15 minutes into the play-off second leg against Partizan after sustaining a posterior cruciate ligament injury.