Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco will clash in the Europa League this Thursday night in arguably the toughest tie of the play-offs round to call after Monaco's stunning run of form and a recent return to the win column for the German side.
It's been a tough ride so far for the former Liverpool superstar at the Leverkusen helm, Xabi Alonso. The ex-Bayern Munich man took the helm back in October after Leverkusen moved down to 13th in the table. So far, Alonso has won seven games and lost five from 15 outings, scoring 26 times and letting in 21. It leaves him with a record of 46.67% in the win column, and this is much better than his 40.82% registered at Real Sociedad B over three years and 98 games.
The Bundesliga side are well out of this incredible title race in Germany right now, as they sit 10 points adrift of the Champions League spots where Freiburg sit with 37 points so far from 20 games. Leverkusen have won just eight games so far, drawn three and lost nine and scored only 33 goals and let in 32.
Last time out, Alonso did guide his side to the first win in three games, beating Hoffenheim 3-1 after losing to Augsburg 1-0 and Borussia Dortmund 2-0. The club did also win their first two games back in action after the World Cup, beating Borussia Monchengladbach 3-2 away from home in a thrilling encounter, before easing past Bochum 2-0 at the BayArena.
Monaco are heading into this one off the back of a sensational run of form that has seen them become just the third team in all competitions to beat Paris Saint-Germain. The 3-1 win over the French champions has brought them to within seven of the top spot in Ligue 1 with 14 wins and only four losses.
In fact, with 51 goals scored, they are one of the top scorers across Europe's top five leagues and are currently outscored by only PSG themselves. Ben Yedder netted twice in the win over PSG, as Aleksandr Golovin scored after four minutes with all four goals in the 3-1 win coming in the first half. Monaco had a total of nine shots on target against the league leaders and conceded just two.
Leverkusen were poor in their Champions League group, winning just one game after losing three of the first five. A 2-0 win against Atletico Madrid forced them into the Europa League on the head-to-head record, however, as they finished on the same goals difference as the La Liga side.
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