Bayer Leverkusen vs Lokomotiv MoscowUEFA Champions League, KO: 20:00 Sep 18, 2019, BayArena
BAYER LEVERKUSEN captured plenty of hearts on their memorable march to the Champions League Final under charismatic boss Klaus Toppmoller in 2002.
It took that famous Zinedine Zidane volley to floor them at Hampden, a match I have a rather hazy recollection of, having stayed up until 6am to watch it in a Tokyo pub off the back of a 12-hour flight from London.
That great side boasted talents such as Michael Ballack, Lucio, Yildiray Basturk and Oliver Neuville but the class of 2019 has a less impressive cast list.
Leverkusen only just sneaked into the Champions League after finishing fourth in the Bundesliga and it would be a shock if either they or Lokomotiv Moscow finished above Juventus and Atletico Madrid in Group D.
The Germans have reached the last 16 or better in seven of their last eight Champions League campaigns but I can't see that fine run continuing this term.
However, they should have enough to pip Lokomotiv to third place and secure a passage to the Europa League, where they were toppled in the last 32 by Krasnodar last season.
That will give fellow Russians Lokomotiv some hope, especially as Krasnodar secured a 1-1 draw in Germany to progress via away goals.
A repeat of that result pays 17-2 at BetVictor but I fancy Leverkusen to edge this one as Lokomotiv lost all three away games in the group stage last season, including a 1-0 loss in Germany to Schalke.
The bookies make Leverkusen heavy favourites, at 2/5 with most firms, and the Russians are a big as 19/2 with Marathonbet. But their European away record isn't bad in general, with Lokomotiv losing just five in 13. That may tempt a few punters to back the draw at 4/1 with BetVictor.
To get more value on a home win, try the winning margin market where Leverkusen are 28/11 with SportNation to triumph by a single strike.
Leverkusen won their first three domestic games this season but the standard of opposition wasn't great as they faced Alemannia Aachen, Paderborn and Fortuna Dusseldorf.
When Hoffenheim came calling they could only muster a 0-0 draw while the tricky weekend trip to Dortmund ended in a thumping 4-0 defeat
However, Lokomotiv head to Germany in poor form as well, drawing with Krasnodar then losing at home to Rostov before a nervy 1-0 weekend win at Sochi.
The Russians boast a bit of a rarity as they have a pair of twins on the books in the shape of the Miranchuk brothers. But Alexey misses the Champions League opener with an injury picked up before the international break while Anton faces a late fitness test. If Anton is cleared to play he could be a decent anytime scorer pick at 15/4 with Unibet.
For Leverkusen, I like the look of Jamaican winger Leon Bailey, who surprisingly started on the bench in Dortmund. The 22-year-old's pace and trickery could upset the Russian defence and he's 2/1 with Betway for anytime scorer.
Lokomotiv's Dmitri Barinov has picked up yellow cards in his last two games for club and country and has accumulated four from just 10 games this season. He's 5/2 with Unibet for another card here and that looks a good shout.
This UEFA Champions League match between Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow will be played on Sep 18, 2019 and kick off at 20:00