Celtic welcome a European powerhouse in Bayer Leverkusen to Parkhead this evening on Matchday Two as the Hoops bid to claim their first points of Group G.
Gerardo Seoane’s side will be formidable opposition to a fragile Celtic side that is currently struggling for form, having won just twice in their last seven games.
In contrast, Bayer Leverkusen arrive in Glasgow on the back of three successive victories against Ferencvaros, Stuttgart and Mainz. They boast an impressive crop of talent with no fewer than 18 full internationals and a former Celtic star among their ranks.
The Bundesliga outfit proved the undoing of Rangers in the Europa League two years ago as they progressed 4-1 on aggregate in the Round of 16, before losing to Inter Milan in the quarter-finals.
Here, we pinpoint five Bayer Leverkusen players for Celtic to watch out for:
1. FLORIAN WIRTZ – Attacking midfielder
Arguably one of the hottest prospects in Germany at the moment, the 18-year-old wonderkid is highly rated by the Bundesliga side and is said to be just as good, if not better than former Bayer superstar Kai Havertz. During his time at Cologne, Wirtz was described as “the best midfielder to come through the club in 30 years” and his stock has continued to grow in recent years. Displays outstanding vision and an ability to unlock any opposition defence.
2. PATRIK SCHICK – Striker
Free-scoring Czech Republic frontman who is a very difficult physical presence to defend against. Very strong and often dominant in the air, Schick is renowned for his outstanding workrate. Scotland fans will remember his goal at Hampden during the opening European Championships group game where he beat David Marshall with an effort from inside the Czech’s half.
3. KARIM BELLARABI – Winger
Burst on to the international scene with Germany due to his outstanding ball retention and dribbling ability. The winger is equally comfortable operating on the left or right-hand side. Jointly hold the record for scoring the fastest goal ever recorded in the Bundesliga, taking all of nine seconds to fire Leverkusen in front against Borussia Dortmund during 2014/15 season.
4. LUKAS HRADECKY – Goalkeeper
An outstanding shot-stopper, one of the best in the Bundesliga, who displayed his talents during the European Championships for Finland this summer, Hradecky has been a mainstay in the Leverkusen side and is the undisputed No.1 for his international team. Very comfortable with the ball at his feet and has excellent reflexes to match. Often proactive in coming off his line.
5. JEREMIE FRIMPONG – Defender
A familiar face to Celtic fans, the young Dutch full-back left Parkhead in a shock January switch to the German giants and loves to bomb forward at every opportunity. The 20-year-old possess electric pace and can pose a significant threat to opponent. Standing at just 5ft 8in, he has a low centre of gravity and is capable of changing direction very quickly.