PARIS (AP) — With Paris Saint-Germain in rampant scoring form and Zlatan Ibrahimovic hungrier than ever for goals, Bayer Leverkusen is facing a tough task in the Champions League.
Leverkusen needs to score five goals and keep a clean sheet against one of Europe's most prolific attacks in order to qualify outright for the quarterfinals.
Here are five things to know before Tuesday's game:
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in the best form of his career, and will be confident of adding to his 45 goals for club and country this season against Bayer Leverkusen.
Added to the spectacular strikes have been some incredible passes, such as the one that released winger Ezequiel Lavezzi for his goal against Bastia on Saturday. As an innocuous-looking ball bounced high near the center circle, normally there would be no danger, but Ibrahimovic showed incredible dexterity to twist his leg up to near shoulder height and volley the ball with his heel into Lavezzi's path.
It was a pass of such precision and timing that, even given Ibrahimovic's considerable repertoire, it was something special.
With Ibrahimovic scoring freely, there seems little pressure on the others to get goals. But that might happen one day, and PSG coach Laurent Blanc has urged other players to chip in more.
Brazilian winger Lucas has scored only three goals this season, while Italy midfielder Marco Verratti has yet to find the net in a total of 73 club appearances.
"The lad's full of talent but he needs to be more disciplined," Blanc said, speaking about Verratti. "He can do a bit more than what he's doing now because he strikes the ball well. He needs to show more of a desire to get forward, it's not normal that he hasn't scored any goals."
Lucas almost scored the goal of the season against Marseille recently, running the length of the field and dribbling past four players only to see his shot cleared off the line.
"We need to make him practice in front of goal more, he can improve in this area," Blanc said.
Midfielder Blaise Matuidi has been involved in a light-hearted Twitter exchange with Ibrahimovic ever since he scored a spectacular goal for France against the Netherlands last week.
Goals from Matuidi are rare enough, and his spectacular volley impressed even Ibrahimovic, who specializes in them. Ibrahimovic tweeted: "Hey @MATUIDIBlaise I saw your goal last night. Magnifique. You must have been watching Zlatan in training."
Matuidi, who was been one of PSG's best players this season, Tweeted back: "Hey @Ibra_official you teach me that move... LOL."
VAN DER WIEL OUT
PSG right back Gregory Van der Wiel will miss the Leverkusen game because of a recurring problem with his right knee.
Van der Wiel, who has impressed with his attacking raids down the right flank this season, will spend the rest of the week in Germany, where he will get treatment for "chronic pains" in his knee, the club said on its website.
He is set to be replaced in the PSG lineup by Christophe Jallet, who has returned to the squad after recovering from a back operation.
TALL ORDER, LOW CONFIDENCE
If overturning a 4-0 deficit wasn't difficult enough, Leverkusen heads to Paris with confidence low after losing five of its past six games.
To make matters worse for the visitors, midfielder Jens Hegeler is ruled out for the rest of the season after tearing a ligament in his right ankle in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Hannover.
"You could feel the lack of confidence," a dispirited Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno said after the match.
With PSG scoring freely — 16 in the past five games — it could be more a case of damage limitation at Parc des Princes.