Rangers' opponents Bayer Leverkusen seek to salvage season in Europa League

By Liam McLeodBBC Scotland
Peter Bosz
Peter Bosz's Bayer Leverkusen are well placed to reach the Europa League quarter-finals

On Wednesday 11 March, the World Health Organization made the decision to categorise Covid-19 as a pandemic.

Twenty-four hours later, the Rangers and Bayer Leverkusen players strode out of the tunnel at Ibrox ahead of their Europa League last-16 first leg in front of a capacity crowd.

The game itself is almost lost in the sands of time as the coronavirus took hold across the world and to this day is still dictating much of what we can do.

However, for Steven Gerrard's players who have made the trip to Germany for the second leg of a tie separated by almost five months, the painful lesson dished out on the night will be fresh in the memory.

Leverkusen were excellent in Glasgow as Gerrard suffered his first home European defeat, with George Edmundson's header their only riposte to strikes by Kai Havertz, Charles Aranguiz and Leon Bailey.

Gerrard was left to ponder a 3-1 deficit that may be too tall an order for Rangers to overturn, but both teams would go into cold storage soon after.

Since then, the Bundesliga returned before anyone else in Europe, behind closed doors, in May with Peter Bosz's side completing their remaining 10 games plus the German Cup final.

They dropped points in four of them to miss out on a Champions League berth via the league, pipped by Borussia Monchengladbach by just two points as they finished fifth.

Runaway champions Bayern Munich beat them 4-2 in the DFB Pokal showpiece a month ago.

However, they have serious designs on salvaging their season by winning the Europa League and thus making it into Uefa's top competition. Rangers are the current obstacle. Inter Milan, who defeated Getafe on Wednesday, would be next in the quarter-finals.

Players to watch

Kai Havertz

Leverkusen's form may have tailed off slightly after the restart, but Havertz is still a wanted man. Not wanted enough from a Rangers point of view because the midfielder is still at the club despite the transfer window opening and continued interest from some of England's biggest hitters. Havertz helped ran the show at Ibrox and could easily do so again on home turf.

Leon Bailey

Leon Bailey scores
Bailey completed Leverkusen's win at Ibrox

The Jamaican forward's finish for Bayer's third goal at Ibrox was exquisite and he started all of their six games of the group campaign. Bailey has been linked with both Everton and Tottenham Hotspur this week and may come up against team-mate Havertz next season if both are prised away from Die Werkself.

Moussa Diaby

Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard's France Under-21 team-mate is another star in the making. Bosz has recently found a way of cramming both he and Bailey into his team by playing the Jamaica international through the middle. Winger Diaby has allegedly drawn admiring glances from newly-crowned English champions Liverpool.

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