Bayer Leverkusen will make a late decision regarding Lars Bender's availability for the Champions League clash with Tottenham Hotspur. The skipper missed last weekend's disappointing 2-1 Bundesliga defeat at Werder Bremen due to flu-like symptoms, but has given cause for optimism by returning to first-team training ahead of Tuesday night's (18 October) Group G tie at the BayArena.
"He's taken part in full training and is looking a bit better," manager Roger Schmidt was quoted as saying by the club during his pre-match press conference yesterday. "We'll have to wait and see."
Schmidt will certainly remain without Karim Bellarabi against Tottenham after he suffered a serious groin injury during only Leverkusen's second match of the season – a 3-1 home win over Hamburg in early September. Initially expected to be sidelined for the rest of 2016 as a result of that problem, the German international winger recently took to social media to reassure supporters that his recovery is progressing very well.
"First of all thank you for the kind messages," he wrote on Facebook. "The rehab is super and I'm getting better and better."
The European meeting with Spurs will see Leverkusen briefly reunite with Heung-Min Son, who scored 29 goals in 87 appearances during a two-year stint in North Rhine-Westphalia before leaving for White Hart Lane in a £22m ($26.9m) deal in August 2015. The South Korean forward, who struggled to make a discernible impact during his first season in English football and was heavily linked with a potential move back to Germany over the summer, has flourished this term with five strikes to his name already and Schmidt is all too aware of the significant threat that he poses.
"We have to keep an eye on every player but from seeing the game at White Hart Lane, Son had an excellent game there," he added. "We know what he's about. He spent a year here with me, he's a great player and a great person as well. After a tricky first year [at Tottenham], he is now showing his real potential, and I hope he carries on in that vein with the possible exception of tomorrow night."
Despite the continued scoring prowess of key striker Javier Hernandez – who has already netted seven goals in 2015/16 despite being hampered by a broken hand – and an impressive win over Borussia Dortmund, Leverkusen have endured a rather average start to the new domestic campaign and currently lie 10th in the Bundesliga with 10 points from their first seven matches. They opened their Champions League campaign by blowing an early two-goal lead at home to CSKA Moscow and were denied a narrow victory in Monaco three weeks ago courtesy of Kamil Glik's impressive last-gasp equaliser.