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Leverkusen keeping faith in Adler

René Adler had never played for Bayer 04 Leverkusen three weeks ago yet the young goalkeeper could hold the key to overturning a 2-1 deficit against RC Lens.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen will look to the emerging goalkeeping talent of the eagle-eyed René Adler to keep things tight at the back as they seek to overturn a 2-1 UEFA Cup Round of 16 deficit against RC Lens on Wednesday.

Clean sheets
With their Bundesliga campaign faltering in the middle of February, the prospect of successive fixtures against title prospects FC Schalke 04 and VfB Stuttgart and in-form Hamburger SV appeared daunting. Yet three games later and Michael Skibbe's team are seven points better off, enough to put them in the driving seat for another UEFA Cup berth next season. The concession of just one goal did much to aid their upturn and credit for that was largely down to one man: Adler.

Penalty save
The 22-year-old was promoted to the first XI to replace the suspended Hans-Jörg Butt on 25 February and took his chance with a clean sheet in the 1-0 win at Schalke. Adler, which appropriately means 'eagle' in German, kept his place against Stuttgart and then marked a remarkable introduction to top-flight football by saving Rafael van der Vaart's second-half penalty to earn a point against Hamburg on Sunday. "I was very calm," the ice-cool custodian.

Haggui absence
It helped the German Under-21 international cast his mistake at Lens in the UEFA Cup out of his mind, having been culpable for the opening goal which helped the home team establish a first-leg advantage. He can make amends on Wednesday though Leverkusen's task will be all the harder for the absence of Karim Haggui, who was sent off in the first encounter. Another youngster, Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker, is set to replace him at centre-back but any fears of inexperience should be offset by the fact Lens are likely to select a few youngsters of their own, including Adil Hermach.

Key absentees
The 20-year-old should get his chance with Patrick Barul (knee) and Sidi Keita (shoulder) ruled out, while Milan Biševac and Nenad Kovačević are ineligible. Marco Ramos, Daniel Cousin and Vitorino Hilton should all be available after recovering from recent knocks though coach Francis Gillot, whose team are unbeaten in seven Ligue 1 matches, admits maintaining second place in France is their main objective. "The UEFA Cup is not an aside, but it will only become a real ambition for us in the last eight," he said. "I will rest key players if they need it but we have determined lads ready to come in." Led by Adler, so do Leverkusen.