PREVIEW: Bayer Leverkusen vs Rangers: Leverkusen look to make ends meet after first-leg victory

Bayer Leverkusen will welcome Rangers to the BayArena on Thursday night almost five months after the opening leg of their Europa League round-of-16 tie.

Hosts Bayer Leverkusen come into the match atop a comfortable two-goal advantage following their 3-1 win at the Ibrox Stadium back in March, shortly before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Die Werkself have played 11 competitive matches since that date as the Bundesliga blinked first and became the first of Europe’s major domestic competitions to resume business. It was a rocky return to football for the German side, losing the DFB Pokal final to Bayern Munich and dropping shy of the Champions League places. They are guaranteed a minimum of Europa League football next season.

Their visitors, Rangers, have had a lengthy hiatus from football – only returning to friendlies in mid-July. Steven Gerrard’s side are yet to concede since the first leg, having won each of their four friendlies and beating Aberdeen 0-1 last weekend as the Scottish Premier League made its return.

Team news

Leverkusen will be without sprightly midfielder Kerem Demirbay, who has played a key role in creating danger on the attack. Paulinho also misses out as the Brazilian continues to recover from an injury sustained late in the Bundesliga campaign.

Glen Kamara will not feature for Rangers.

Predicted line-ups

Bayer Leverkusen: Hradecky; L. Bender, Tapsoba, S. Bender, Wendell; Aranguiz, Baumgartlinger; Diaby, Amiri, Bailey; Havertz. (4-2-3-1)

Rangers: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic; Arfield, Jack, Aribo; Hagi, Morelos, Kent. (4-3-3)

Players to watch

Kai Havertz

Kai Havertz has been a mainstay of the Leverkusen set-up this term. Providing both goals and assists, the 21-year-old has attracted attention from many of the world’s top clubs. It is anticipated that this will be among his final matches for the club, with Chelsea a likely destination.

The German has scored three times and assisted twice in his three Europa League appearances this season.

Ryan Kent

Ryan Kent has been an important for Rangers this term with eight goals in all competitions. His blistering pace creates issues for defenders, and has reaped his success on the continent with a goal and two assists in the Europa League.

Previous meetings

These sides last met in March, in the first leg of the round-of-16 tie. Havertz put Leverkusen ahead in the first half from the penalty spot, before goals from Aranguiz and Leon Bailey rendered George Edmundson’s strike insignificant.

The previous competitive meeting took place as far back as November 1998 – in the same stage of the same competition – when Rangers won 3-2 on aggregate following a 1-1 draw at the Ibrox.

Where to watch on TV

All the action is live on BT Sport at 17:55 BST.

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