History is against Sporting CP, who must win in Germany for the first time in 12 visits to give themselves a chance against Leverkusen, but midfielder João Mário still has faith.
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Sporting CP will have to defy history – they are seeking a first win on German soil – if they are to turn their round of 32 tie around against Bayer Leverkusen.
Ten defeats in 11 winless games in Germany do not augur well for the Lions, who have to turn around a 1-0 deficit at the BayArena following defeat in Lisbon. A Karim Bellarabi goal scored with his knee after 26 minutes gave the Werkself an important advantage against Sporting – who had 21-year old central defender Ruben Semedo sent off in his first European match – and the damage could have been even worse as the goalscorer also struck a post near the end.
Sporting's João Mário, however, believes his side can still have a say and is not intimidated by the Portuguese side's underwhelming record in Germany. "Everything is still open," the 23-year-old told UEFA.com. "Nothing is decided in one day – the tie has two legs. The match in Germany will be tight and we will do everything to get to the next stage. We know we need to score more than one goal to go through and that is exactly what we will try to do."
A more attacking style is required if Sporting are to make the round of 16, according to the midfielder. "The first leg was very balanced," he added. "We knew that we were facing a team from the UEFA Champions League with a very high intensity game and who are very well coached. We didn't play offensively or create enough chances and we didn't bother Bayer's defence."
With the club also looking for a first win against Leverkusen at the fifth attempt (D1 L4), at least coach Jorge Jesus has experience of beating the German outfit having seen them off home and away with Benfica during the round of 32 in 2012/13. "The situation now is better for Leverkusen but there is still a chance," said the 61-year-old boss. "We have to score to go through. It is true that it is in Germany but I have already won there."
From the Leverkusen perspective, Bellarabi was the man who stood out, his innovative finish being the difference between the sides. "It was the first time I have scored with my knee, but it doesn't matter how you score – it is as good as any other way," said the 25-year old German international. "I am very happy to have scored and pleased that we played a great game. Now we must look forward, because we have to do the same thing in the second leg and win. The game against Sporting was difficult but I hope to play as well at home as I did in Lisbon."