Bayer Leverkusen and Real Betis meet again on Thursday evening, two weeks after their last Europa League encounter – this time at the BayArena.
The teams could not be separated a fortnight ago, playing out a 1-1 draw, and remain level on seven points at the top of Group G.
Leverkusen would likely have been the slightly happier of the two sides with that draw, having been away from home and recovering from a goal down to level in the 82nd minute through Robert Andrich.
They also came into the match on the back of a 5-1 hammering at the hands of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich, where they conceded four goals in seven first-half minutes, and would likely have been happy simply to steady the ship.
The steadiness of the ship is up for debate, however, as they have not won since – a 2-2 draw away at FC Koln was followed by a loss to second-tier Karlsruher SC in the cup and then a 2-0 defeat at home to Wolfsburg last weekend.
The Wolves also came into the match on a poor run of form, having lost their previous three matches, but were able to grab the three points thanks to two goals early in the second half.
The ‘new manager bounce’ that Gerardo Seoane brought at the start of the campaign, when Leverkusen won eight of his opening 10 competitive fixtures and suffered just one defeat to Borussia Dortmund, are now a distant memory, and they have now gone five matches without a win.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side, on the other hand, have kept up their strong start to the campaign, winning six and drawing three of their first 12 La Liga matches to sit fifth in the table, four points behind leaders Real Sociedad.
They did suffer their first loss in five games on Sunday, though, when Atletico Madrid comfortably beat them 3-0 at the Vicente Calderon, with goals from Yannick Carrasco and Joao Felix coming either side of a German Pezzella own goal.
Pellegrini will hope that was simply a blip, against a team who are the reigning champions even if they have not shown it consistently this season, and will now turn his focus back to the Europa League.
Both Betis and Leverkusen currently look comfortable on seven points at the top of the group, with Celtic four points back, but they will be aware that a loss for either will likely see the complexion of Group C change with the Scottish side likely to claim a win over minnows Ferencvaros.
Los Verdiblancos beat Celtic 4-3 in a dramatic opening game, despite falling two goals behind early on, so will know that anything could happen in the reverse fixture and will want to be in the strongest position possible heading into that.
Bayer Leverkusen Europa League form:
Bayer Leverkusen form (all competitions):
Real Betis Europa League form:
Real Betis form (all competitions):
We say: Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 Real Betis
Both teams will likely be more worried about losing than winning, which could lead to a cagey affair. The hosts have home advantage but are in terrible form and would likely take a draw in this one, so we’re backing a final score of 1-1.