Bayer Leverkusen's 50th match in the UEFA Europa League takes them to northern Italy for a first meeting with Atalanta, Serie A's last team standing.
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Bayer Leverkusen's 50th match in the UEFA Europa League takes them to northern Italy for a first meeting with Atalanta, Serie A's last team standing in the round of 16.
• Atalanta entered this competition after failing to make it three successful UEFA Champions League group stage campaigns in a row as they lost their win-or-bust final Group F fixture 2-3 at home to Villarreal, thereby remaining in third place, four points behind their Spanish conquerors and five adrift of section winners Manchester United. They made light work of Olympiacos in the knockout round play-offs, however, winning 2-1 at home and 3-0 away.
• Leverkusen ensured top spot in UEFA Europa League Group G with a game to spare, accumulating 13 points at the expense of Real Betis, Celtic and Ferencváros before ceding their unbeaten record with a Matchday 6 defeat in Hungary.
• While Atalanta are meeting Leverkusen for the first time, this is their second tie in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase against Bundesliga opposition, the first, against Borussia Dortmund in the 2017/18 round of 32, having ended in defeat (2-3 a, 1-1 h). The Bergamo side's only other UEFA contest with a German club came in the third round of the 1990/91 UEFA Cup, when they beat Köln 2-1 on aggregate (1-1 a, 1-0 h).
• This is Leverkusen's 22nd encounter with Italian opposition. They have won just five of the previous 21 (D5 L11), losing the last four, the most recent 2-1 to Inter in the single-leg 2019/20 UEFA Europa League quarter-final in Düsseldorf. While the Werkself's overall record in two-legged ties against Italian teams is W2 L2, their record in Italy is W1 D3 L6, their last three visits having all ended in defeat, most recently at Juventus (0-3) in the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League group stage.
• Atalanta finished third in last season's Serie A to qualify for a third successive appearance in the UEFA Champions League group stage. Gian Piero Gasperini's side were also runners-up to Juventus in the Coppa Italia, losing 2-1 in the final in Reggio Emilia.
• The Bergamo club had never featured in the UEFA Champions League before 2019/20, when they reached the quarter-finals on debut before falling to Paris Saint-Germain. They again reached the knockout phase in 2020/21, losing to Real Madrid in the last 16, but were unable to complete the hat-trick this term, managing just one win in their six group games – 1-0 at home to bottom-placed Young Boys – and finishing with six points.
• This is Atalanta's first appearance in the UEFA Europa League round of 16, their only previous knockout phase participation having been ended by Dortmund in the round of 32 four years ago.
• Although Gasperini's side have won only two of their last eight European fixtures in Bergamo (D3 L3), the recent victory against Olympiacos preserved Atalanta's unbeaten home record in the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Cup (W7 D6).
• Sixth place in the 2020/21 Bundesliga earned Leverkusen a fourth successive participation in the UEFA Europa League. They were quarter-finalists in 2019/20 – after finishing third in their UEFA Champions League group – and lost in the round of 32 last season, succumbing to Swiss champions Young Boys (3-4 a, 0-2 h), whose coach Gerardo Seoane is now in charge at the BayArena.
• This is the club's seventh appearance in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase – a German record. They have never failed to progress from the group stage, and have now topped their section three times in a row, including last season when, under former coach Peter Bosz, they amassed 15 points and scored 21 goals – one shy of Napoli's competition record – in dominating a section that also featured Slavia Praha, Nice and Hapoel Beer-Sheva. This term they found the net 14 times, including 4-0 wins away to Celtic and at home to Betis.
• Leverkusen are competing in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 for the fourth time. They lost both of their first two ties to Villarreal (2-3 h, 1-2 a in 2010/11; 0-2 a, 0-0 h in 2015/16) but made it third time lucky two seasons ago against Rangers (3-1 a, 1-0 h) before losing that quarter-final to Inter.
• Leverkusen have won nine of their last 20 European away fixtures (D5 L6) and have an all-time away record in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase of W4 D1 L4. In this season's group stage they won at Celtic, drew at Betis (1-1) and lost at Ferencváros (0-1).
UEFA Europa League squad changes
In: Jérémie Boga (Sassuolo, loan), Valentin Mihăilă (Parma, loan)
Out: Robin Gosens (Inter, loan), Josip Iličić, Matteo Lovato (Cagliari, loan), Roberto Piccoli (Genoa, loan)
In: Sardar Azmoun (Zenit), Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Lennart Grill
Out: Nadiem Amiri (Genoa, loan), Panagiotis Retsos (Verona), Emrehan Gedikli (Trabzonspor)
Links and trivia
• Leverkusen striker Patrik Schick played in Italy for Sampdoria (2016/17) and Roma (2017–19), failing to score in three appearances against Atalanta (D1 L2). His team-mate Moussa Diaby also played two Serie A games for Crotone in 2018.
• Atalanta forward Luis Muriel was Schick's strike partner at Sampdoria. The pair were the Genoa club's joint top Serie A scorers in 2016/17 with 11 goals apiece.
• Atalanta's Marten de Roon and Leverkusen's Daley Sinkgraven were Heerenveen team-mates from 2013 to 2015.
• International team-mates:
Jeremie Boga & Odilon Kossounou (Ivory Coast)
Juan Musso & Lucas Alario, Exequiel Palacios (Argentina)
Aleksei Miranchuk & Andrei Lunev (Russia)
• Leverkusen have played more matches (49) and registered more wins (28) than any other German club in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final. They have also scored more goals (96) and are bidding to become the 14th club to reach a century in the competition.
• Leverkusen are one of five clubs involved in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 that have previously lifted the trophy, in their case in its former guise as the UEFA Cup (1988).