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Soccer-Wobbling Leverkusen bullish ahead of PSG test

Reuters

PARIS, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Bayer Leverkusen are confident their recent poor form will not stop them overcoming Zlatan Ibrahimovic-led Paris St Germain in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in Germany on Tuesday.

It will be the first time the sides have met in Europe and the Germans have an excellent home record against French opposition in European competition, winning four out of six matches.

Domestically, however, Leverkusen have struggled recently and have lost five of their last seven, including a shock home defeat by second-division side Kaiserslautern in the German Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Sami Hyypia's side played better despite losing 2-1 at the Bayer Arena to Schalke 04 on Saturday, although striker Stefan Kiessling is strugging to reclaim his touch in front of goal.

Kiessling, 30, scored two goals in six games in the Champions League group stage this season as Bayer finished second in Group A behind Manchester United.

"I'm very happy with the way my team played. It was very different from Wednesday's game," Hyypia told the club's website after Saturday's loss.

"The lads showed a lot of character. We can get a result on Tuesday if we play like that."

Bayer continue to sweat on the fitness of centre back Emir Spahic who was substituted in the 60th minute with a thigh injury and midfielder Emre Can will miss the match through suspension.

Spahic's absence could be a big blow to a side which conceded nine goals in two group matches against United and face the tough task of controlling Ibrahimovic.

IBRAHIMOVIC'S THREAT

With Edinson Cavani recovering from a thigh problem and expected to return before the end the month, the talismanic Swede will lead the attack.

Ibrahimovic, who scored a personal best eight goals in the group stage and has 19 league goals this campaign, said he was determined to help PSG win the Champions League - a feat he has not achieve despite playing for Barcelona, Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Ajax.

"If we can get further than the quarter-finals this year it would be a big step for us. This project has been ongoing for two years and I've been here for one and a half - it is developing," he told UEFA.com.

"We have a team with a lot of potential and high quality and I think the collective part has grown a lot this year."

PSG are five points clear of second-placed Monaco in Ligue 1 and are cruising toward their first back-to-back titles, although coach Laurent Blanc said he wanted his side to covert more opportunities on goal.

"We create a big amount of chances but we have not converted enough in the past month and a half," Blanc told reporters after his side beat Valenciennes 3-0 in the league on Friday.

With Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore all suffering from inconsistency this season, PSG will attempt to better last year's quarter-final appearance after Barcelona went through on away goals following two drawn matches.

The club's latest acquisition Yohan Cabaye has been added to PSG's Champions League squad and could feature in what would be his fifth appearance for the club since arriving from Newcastle in January.

The return leg will take place at the Parc des Princes on March 12. (Reporting by Gregory Blachier; Editing by Mark Pangallo)

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