Rangers vs Bayer Leverkusen: Preview

By Tommy McIntyre
 March 11, 2020

Bayer’s Back!

Back again. If you got the Eminem reference there, well done; if you are of an older vintage what about; we’re Leverkusen, on a jet plane. No? Well you write this stuff then. Sheesh.

So, Bayer Leverkusen under the lights this Thursday should be a spectacle.  Gerrard in a Haz-mat suit hosing down fans with sanitizing gel whilst the players refuse any physical contact due to COVID19, or to give it its Latin name, Footbalis Suspendes.

I may have contracted something based on those first two paragraphs.

The Europa League is a welcome distraction from what has been a turgid few weeks domestically for Rangers. (Why not listen to Episode 2 of the ThisIsIbrox Podcast, ‘Dire in Dingwall’.  Available where you get your podfix).

Sitting fourth in the Bundesliga, 8 points off the top, an unbeaten 2020 has seen Dutchman Peter Bosz’s side beat Borussia Dortmund, and Bayern Munich, thump Eintracht Frankfurt (4-0) and draw 1-1 with Tottenham’s conquerors RB Leipzig. They also beat Porto home and away (5-2 on agg) in the last round of 32. All in all not a team to be trifled with who are on a very good run of form.

Bosz is credited with putting in place much of the structure which allowed the current Ajax team to flourish during his time there, and whilst it didn’t work out at Dortmund he appears to have gotten his message across at the Bay Arena with Leverkusen playing some Klopp-style, high energy, pressing attacking football. 

Much has been made of the prowess of 20-year old Kai Havertz, playing on the right of a midfield or attack or through the centre. It is without question that this boy has bags of talent with both Liverpool and Bayern Munich in the hunt for his £100m signature in the summer. I reckon Barasic Vs Havertz will be a key battle in this contest.

Some good news for Rangers is the news that due to injury, top scorer (11) Kevin Volland is out for the rest of the season with an ankle issue.  That said, his deputy, the Argentinian Lucas Alraio has chipped in with 10 goals already as well. Also in the mix is 19-year-old Brazilian Paulinho who was brought in for 20million Euros in the summer of 2018.  He bagged a brace in that 4-0 demolition of Eintracht Frankfurt at the weekend.

Suffice to say we are underdogs and our backline has to find the composure and quality it had in the early part of the season.  I suspect Allan McGregor’s gloves to be kept warm.

What I do think will be a surprise to Bayer will be Rangers’ style of play, as recently as Wednesday we had Bayer player Julian Baumgartlinger stating “It will be very physical, surely we will meet a typical Scottish team.  They’ll have the characteristics we normally see when we face teams over on that island”.  It will be physical, but this Rangers team CAN play too.

So to Rangers, who to choose to deal with Bayer’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation? 

With Rangers struggling at the back should Helander make it I think Gerrard will pitch him in with Goldson. If not, George Edmundson will get the nod to partner the ex-Brighton man.

If Tavernier by some miracle can also make it he will go in.  If not the conundrum is Matt Polster or young Nathan Patterson, I suspect the former to get the nod due to the size of the occasion.

In midfield, again, if Jack makes it he plays alongside Kamara and Davis. Scott Arfield may also be in the thinking at the expense of Joe Aribo as Rangers look to close down the space and make Bayer play long.

Up top I have no doubt Alfredo Morelos will get the nod and he really needs to deliver a big performance for the club and fans after an indifferent 2020. Will he be supported by Kent and Hagi or will the latter make way for Kamberi? I suspectwith both Hagi’s and Kent running ability in behind Flo will find himself on the bench.

It’s going to be a tough ask and we all need to try and make the atmosphere as electric as possible to give the players a lift.  I’m sticking by my prediction; 2-1 Rangers.

If Bayer win we can all just sneeze on them.

Rangers, then, now and always.

Written by @Tommynglasgow

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