FC Zurich vs. Bayer Leverkusen Preview: Top of the table clash at the Letzigrund
(Photo by Fabrice Coffaini/Getty Images)

FC Zurich vs. Bayer Leverkusen Preview: Top of the table clash at the Letzigrund

FC Zurich welcome Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen to the Letzigrund on Matchday 3 of the UEFA Europa League with both sides boasting 100% records in Group A. 

Craig King

FC Zurich could hardly have dreamt of a better start to their UEFA Europa League campaign this season, starting with a win away in Cyprus against AEK Larnaca and following up with another at home to seasoned European outfit Ludogorets Razgrad of Bulgaria on Matchday 2.

Zurich now welcome the top seeds in the group to the Letzigrund as Bayer Leverkusen roll into town with their own 100% record and sit top of the group, but only on goal difference. Something has to give.

Party like it's 2007

In the long history of both of these clubs, the two teams have only met once before.

Almost 11 years ago to be precise when, at the Letzigrund, the two clashed in Group E of the 2007-2008 UEFA Cup. A winter evening that fans of Der Stadtclub would rather forget as Vratislav Gresko, Dmitri Bulykin twice, Swiss international Tranquillo Barnetta and Stefan Kiessling all struck in an emphatic win for the Germans.

This was from a time that three teams would qualify from their bloated groups in the UEFA Cup and as such, this result had little lasting impact on FCZ as they progressed in third place. Leverkusen would finish top of the group.

Steady form

Both sides come into this match in steady yet unspectacular form after domestic duties at the weekend ended in stalemate for both sides.

Zurich will undoubtedly be the happier of the two sides though, having earned a 3-3 draw with all-conquering Swiss champions Young Boys and having also not lost a match in any competition in their last eight. Not bad for a side that were playing second tier football just two seasons ago. It is also worth noting that FCZ haven't lost a competitive match at home since March.

Leverkusen have lost only one of their last seven in all competitions which, on paper, looks enviable to most teams, especially when that sole defeat came to in-form Borussia Dortmund but it covers up the cracks a little for Die Werkself. They have drawn their last two and were very disappointing at home to Hannover on Saturday, needing to come from behind twice and score in the very last minutes to secure a 2-2 draw.

All of this throws together a fascinating contest with Zurich scoring only two goals in the group, conceding zero, taking on a Leverkusen side who have already netted seven but also conceded four, including two at home to AEK

The stubborn Swiss defence against the free-flowing, reckless abandon attacking of the Germans. Again, something has to give.

Team news

Zurich are almost at full strength for the match although two players are missing from the eighteen players selected against Ludogorets. Becir Omeragic only warmed the bench on Matchday 2 but is now out with a long-term injury while Victor Palsson, the scorer of the winning goal against the Bulgarians, is also injured and will miss out.

Elsewhere, FCZ ammunition will be provided by Stephen Odey and Assan Ceesay while Benjamin Kololli, who scored the only goal vs. AEK, is perhaps the most important player in the squad.

Leverkusen have a clean bill of health for this one and a strong squad of players to select from for this match. 

Kai Havertz is undoubtedly the Europa League danger man having scored three goals already in the opening two matches while Lucas Alario, Issac Thelin and Julian Brandt all also have goals to their name.

What they said

While these two sides are quite far apart in terms of European pedigree, both managers have been complimentary and respectful of the other ahead of the game while also maintaining confidence in their teams.

FCZ manager, Ludovic Magnin has recognized the challenge that Leverkusen will bring, telling reporters at the official pre-match media conference: "It will be a big challenge for us to play against a Bundesliga team, and we need a top-notch performance and will have to stretch to the limit, but I trust my team to be able to beat Leverkusen."

Leverkusen boss, Heiko Herrlich, at his pre-match conference was quick to stress the qualities that FCZ have shown so far: "FC Zurich also have six points and they've not conceded any goals so far. We want to end that run. They've also not lost a home game in their stadium this year - we also want to end that run."

Both managers seemingly with full belief that their side can take all the points in the match and also take charge of the group. Two wins and six points each, something will give for one of these teams in the most expensive city in the world on Thursday and if there is a loser come the final whistle, it may just prove to be a very expensive defeat in the battle for top spot in this group.