Rangers v Bayer Leverkusen – BBC Sport

Rangers host a Bayer Leverkusen side who are unbeaten in nine games
Europa League: Rangers v Bayer Leverkusen
Venue: Ibrox Date: Thursday, 12 March Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Coverage: Updates on BBC Radio Scotland and follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport Scotland website and app.

Rangers aim to reach the Europa League quarter-finals for the first time in 12 years when they take on high-flying Bayer Leverkusen in the last 16.

The first leg takes place at Ibrox on Thursday, with the return meeting in Germany seven days later to be played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Steven Gerrard’s side arrested a domestic run of three games without victory by edging Ross County on Sunday. But they face a stern test in the Bundesliga’s fourth-placed side, who are unbeaten in nine.

Team news

Rangers captain James Tavernier will be given “until the last minute” to prove his fitness, according to Gerrard, as the right-back battles a foot problem that kept him out of training on Wednesday.

Midfielder Ryan Jack and striker Jermain Defoe will miss the first leg, but Scott Arfield is fit to play after a hamstring injury.

Leverkusen will be without Germany international midfielder Sven Bender, who has a knee injury, while fellow national team player Kevin Volland remains out.

What they said

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard: “I think anyone who is sitting in the top four of the Bundesliga, you have to respect instantly. We know what we’re dealing with, we know the challenge.

“I think we will find a performance. I can see the boys are focused in their preparation. Sometimes it takes opposition like this to find your best, so let’s hope that’s the case.”

Bayer Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz: “I’m looking forward to playing here – but when you play in front of home fans they are for you and that’s an advantage if we are playing in front of an empty stadium.

“To be honest, the competition has been devalued. Fans should be there. No one is to blame, but it is strange.”

‘It’s a different type of feeling’ – Leverkusen’s Bailey on playing with no fans

How did the teams reach this stage?

Rangers have had to plot a long and arduous route to the last 16, beginning in the first qualifying round against lowly St Joseph’s of Gibraltar. They then saw off 2016 conquerors Progres Niederkorn, Midtylland of Denmark and Polish side Legia Warsaw.

Gerrard burnished his impressive European record further as he piloted his team to second place in a group containing Porto, BSC Young Boys and Feyenoord, losing a solitary match, before fighting back in sensational fashion from two goals down to beat Braga 4-2 on aggregate.

Leverkusen dropped into Europe’s second tier by virtue of their third-place finish in Champions League Group D. The German outfit won two and lost four of their six fixtures, finishing well adrift of leaders Juventus and runners-up Atletico Madrid. They overcame Porto, who topped Rangers’ group, 5-2 on aggregate to reach the last 16.

Match stats

  • The sides met in the 1998/99 Uefa Cup second round, with Rangers prevailing 3-2 on aggregate (2-1 a, 1-1 h) thanks to a goal in each game from Finnish striker Jonatan Johansson
  • Rangers have met German clubs on 45 occasions and have a strong home record (W13 D6 L3)
  • Alfredo Morelos was the top scorer in this season’s Uefa Europa League qualifying phase with eight goals, and the group stage with six. He has yet to score in the knockout phase
  • Steven Gerrard captained Liverpool to back-to-back 3-1 wins against Leverkusen in the last 16 of the 2004/05 Uefa Champions League
  • Rangers are the only club to have reached the round of 16 after starting in the first qualifying round
  • Leverkusen are one of four Champions League group-stage participants to have reached the Europa League round of 16, along with Inter Milan, Olympiakos and Shakhtar Donetsk.

Can you name the last Rangers team to play Bayer Leverkusen?

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