UEFA have appointed the Serb Srdjan Jovanovic as the referee for this Round of 16 first leg encounter. The 35-year-old has refereed matches on the European stage involving Bundesliga teams Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt but this is the first time with Bayer 04. One current Werkself player has already been involved with the game under Jovanovic: Central defender Jonathan Tah played the full 90 minutes in the 2-0 win for Germany against Belarus in a Euros qualifier in June 2019.
Jovanovic, who has already been in charge of four Champions League games this season, will tonight be assisted by his fellow countrymen Uros Stojkovic and Milan Mihajlovic. Have a good game!
Atalanta's head coach Gian Piero Gasperini sees Bayer 04 as a strong opponent. The 64-year-old: "Leverkusen are a solid team, a fast, tough opponent who can attack and defend very well." Gasperini did follow last weekend's 1-1 draw for the Werkself at FC Bayern: "I watched them play FC Bayern: I saw a team full of young players including some very talented youngsters. They will be a tough nut to crack." The Italian club's coach is missing his attacking players Duván Zapata – equal top scorer for Atalanta in the league along with Mario Pasalic – and Josip Ilicic.
Atalanta's midfield maestro Marten De Roon, who is set to make appearance number 250 for the North Italian side tonight and who played alongside Daley Sinkgraven at SC Heerenveen, said ahead of the match against the Werkself: "Leverkusen are very strong and have lots of young talented players. We’ll have to be at our best as I can't see any big weaknesses in our opponents. We are always in a position to create goalscoring opportunities and score goals but it will be equally as important to keep a clean sheet."
According to the regional authorities in North Italy, a 75% capacity is permitted at the Gewiss Stadium tonight – 14,600 spectators will be at the game. 600 Leverkusen fans have purchased tickets and will be supporting the Werkself from the away end.
Let's look at today's venue with its striking characteristics: One stand is ultramodern and a second is being renovated in part, while the South Stand behind one of the goals – with a few cosmetic exceptions – is still in its original condition from the 1920s. The away end is in this almost historical stand.
This will not be the first match in Bergamo for goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky: In his time at Eintracht Frankfurt (2015 to 2018) there was a friendly between Atalanta and Eintracht in the summer of 2016. "Back then, Atalanta were on the way to the top in Italy and now they are a very experienced European side," said the Werkself skipper at yesterday's press conference. The friendly ended all square at 2-2.
While the majority the Werkself squad are preparing for the match in Bergamo, midfielders Robert Andrich and Julian Baumgartlinger worked hard on their comebacks in the shadow of the BayArena today. The duo completed an individual session with fitness coach Daniel Jouvin on Thursday morning. And striker Patrik Schick, who suffered a calf injury in the 3-2 defeat at Mainz 05, was also on the training ground.
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