Bayer Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt has said his team must exploit the pressure building on Chelsea when the teams meet tomorrow in the UEFA Champions League.
Leverkusen trail Chelsea by two points in Group E with two matches remaining, but the Premier League side suffered a setback on Sunday when their were beaten 2-1 at home by Liverpool, leaving them 12 points behind leaders Manchester City.
It was their third league defeat in four games and Dutt said his Bundesliga team must make home advantage pay off and capitalise on Chelsea's poor form. Home wins over group rivals Valencia of Spain and Belgium's Genk has helped Leverkusen's position in the group after they lost 2-0 at Chelsea at the start of their European campaign.
A win for Chelsea will put them in the knockout stages, while victory for the hosts would put them on the verge of the next round ahead of their final game at Genk in a fortnight.
"The home advantage after two wins really helps. We played well in London and are coming off the back of a win in the Bundesliga," said Dutt, whose team beat Kaiserslautern 2-0 on Friday. "We know Chelsea aren't doing that well in the Premier League and are 12 points behind the leaders, we respect their players, but they are under pressure and we are hoping to get a win."
After Leverkusen held Chelsea for more than an hour at Stamford Bridge in September, Blues defender David Luiz struck with 23 minutes remaining before Juan Mata added the second in added time.
Dutt said reports pointing the finger of blame at Chelsea's defence for their league problems are wide of the mark. "I think they are exaggerated, I haven't seen major problems in Chelsea's defence, especially at centre-back, and I think the English press is a bit more critical than here," Dutt said. "I don't see too many problems in the centre of defence, we let David Luiz run at us in the first leg and he scored against us."
Ex-Germany captain Michael Ballack will make his 100th European appearance against his former club and Dutt says the midfielder's experience will be priceless, with or without the mask which is protecting his broken nose.
"In the form he has shown, he is incredibly important, there is no question about that," said Dutt after Ballack scored against Kaiserslautern. "He has huge amount of experience and for most of our players this is new territory, so it's good to have a key player like him in form.
"The mask is not bothering him and he has trained without it this week, we'll decide before kick off whether or not he wears it."
Dutt also refused to be drawn into criticising Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas, 34, who is in his first season at Chelsea after a multi-million transfer from Porto on a three-year deal in June. "My colleague has achieved quite a lot and if Chelsea paid €15 million for a coach, they must think he is worth it," said Dutt, himself in his first season at Leverkusen. "He is respected amongst his colleagues and I think he'll do well at Chelsea."