Berlin (AFP) – Javier Hernandez is poised to make his Champions League debut for new side Bayer Leverkusen in Wednesday’s clash at home to Belarus’ BATE Borisov, according to his coach Roger Schmidt.
The 27-year-old Mexico striker signed a three-year contract when he joined from Manchester United last month and made his Bundesliga debut off the bench in the second half of Leverkusen’s shock defeat to Darmstadt last Saturday.
‘Chicharito’ has a wealth of experience on the European stage for both United and Real Madrid, for who he scored the winner in last season’s Champions League quarterfinal against Atletico Madrid while on loan from Old Trafford.
He is set to make his European bow for Leverkusen, and the Mexican has already impressed his teammates.
“He’s a great bloke, who’s very open and speaks better English then most of the squad and has integrated well,” confirmed Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
Schmidt is set to include right back Roberto Hilbert, who was doubtful but has recovered from a knee knock. A decision will be made after the final training session.
Bayer have reached the last 16 stage of the competition for the last two seasons, and with holders Barcelona also in Group E, they know that starting with three points at the BayArena is crucial against the pool’s minnows.
“We’re the favorites on paper, but we won’t underestimate Borisov,” insisted Schmidt.
Leverkusen have struggled for form in the Bundesliga with two wins and two defeats to leave them 13th in the table while BATE are top of their domestic league and are eight points clear at the top of the table after 19 matches.
BATE have one player well-known outside his homeland in ex-Arsenal and Barcelona forward Alekander Hleb, 34, who is winding down his career back in his native country.
His side have reason for confidence, as their best moment in Europe came against a German side as they shocked Bayern Munich 3-1 at home back in October 2012, although the Bavarian giants went on to win the Champions League later that season.
Amidst the ongoing Europe-wide crisis, Bayer have invited 500 refugees to the Champions League match from Leverkusen, Bonn, Leichlingen and Bergisch-Gladbach.
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