Rangers will face Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League round of 16. It’s a tough assignment for Steven Gerrard’s side, but having already beaten Porto, Feyenoord and Braga, they can feel confident of competing.

Leverkusen currently sit fifth in the Bundesliga, hovering just outside the Champions League qualification places. They were knocked out of Europe’s premier club competition this season, beaten to third place in their group by Juventus and Atletico Madrid. That saw them drop down into the Europa League, where they comfortably dispatched Porto 5-2 on aggregate to reach the second knock-out round.

Their manager, Peter Bosz, has developed a reputation for a possession-focused attacking style of play. He previously led Ajax to the final of the Europa League in 2017, where they dominated the ball only to be beaten 2-0 by Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. He left the Dutch giants to take over at Borussia Dortmund, but was sacked within six months after an eight-game winless league run, conceding 21 goals.


Bosz has rehabilitated his reputation at Leverkusen, where he has a talented group of young players to work with including German international playmaker Kai Havertz, former Paris Saint-Germain prospect Moussa Diaby and pacey winger Leon Bailey. He previously set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 with Havertz supporting a lone striker, though recently he has implemented a 3-4-3 system.

Within the new formation, the experienced Sven Bender plays at the heart of the defence. He is joined by new signing Edmond Tapsoba and the powerful Jonathan Tah.


Nadiem Amiri, a major signing from Hoffenheim last summer, takes up one of the central midfield roles, though it is unclear who will partner him for the clash with Rangers. Lars Bender and Julian Baumgartlinger would provide more defensive steel, though Bosz may prefer the creative quality of Kerem Demirbay or January arrival Exequiel Palacios.


Havertz usually starts on the right of the front three. There, he has license to roam, find pockets of space and connect attacking moves, while Diaby provides good dribbling and the pace to get in behind on the left-hand side. The absence of Kevin Volland is reason for optimism among Rangers supporters, however.

Volland, who has more goals and assists than any of his team-mates, has been ruled out for the rest of the campaign with an ankle injury. Argentine centre-forward Lucas Alario will probably take his place, adding greater physical presence to Leverkusen’s attack.

Like all teams managed by Bosz, Leverkusen like to have the ball. Only Bayern Munich have averaged more possession than their 59.5 per cent in the Bundesliga this season, while only Bayern and Dortmund play more short passes per game. An aggressive pressing side who like to control the ball, build out from the back and play in a 3-4-3 system with wing-backs on either side, Leverkusen may remind Rangers of their previous Europa League opponents.

They are a team with big-name players playing in one of Europe’s best leagues. But strip all of that away and they play similar football – both in style and shape – to the team Rangers beat in the Europa League round of 32. If Gerrard can organise and motivate his players as well as he did away to Braga, a quarter-final place is not out of the question.