Rangers v Bayer Leverkusen: Germans favourites but hosts carry a scoring threat
Rangers face the might of Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday but will be roared on by a capacity Ibrox. Frankie Monkhouse details the chances of Steven Gerrard's side...
Rangers v Bayer Leverkusen Thursday, 20:00 Live on BT Sport
Rangers and Bayer Leverkusen cross paths for only the third time in history when meeting at Ibrox in the Round of 16 in this season's Europa League. It has been a memorable journey for followers of the Glasgow side and quite an achievement by Steven Gerrard, guiding his men from the first qualifying round into the latter stages of the competition.
This is where many expect the journey to end, at the hands of one of the outright betting favourites in respected Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen. This isn't the first match Rangers have gone into as underdogs, however. The Scots seem to thrive on it and fans can take confidence from the stats, Rangers unbeaten in their two previous games against Leverkusen.
Welcome distraction from league woes
The league form of Glasgow Rangers since January has fans disappointing. The Govan side went into the winter break neck-and-neck with rivals Celtic in a bid to end nine-in-a-row for The Hoops. Since returning with a narrow 1-0 win over St Mirren at Ibrox, Rangers have lost to Hearts, Kilmarnock and Hamilton in the Premiership. They were also knocked out of the Scottish Cup by the Jambos.
Fans, players and the coaching staff will see Thursday's task as a welcome distraction. Despite their poor league form, Rangers beat Sporting Braga over two legs in the Europa League Round of 32, winning 3-2 at this venue and 1-0 on the road. Interestingly, each of Rangers' last four games in all competitions have produced a 1-0 final score, two wins and two defeats. With another tight, tense evening ahead, there's sure to be interest in that trend continuing.
Free-scorning Bayer blasted Frankfurt
In the Bundesliga, Bayer Leverkusen sit fourth in the table with their season stats reading 14 wins and five draws against six defeats. They have scored 45 goals in 25 games, conceding 30. A tally of 47 means the visitors are just eight points behind leaders Bayern Munich and on course for a slot in next season's Champions League. In the Europa League outright betting, Bayer are fifth at 9/1 in a list dominated by Man Utd.
Peter Bosz led his Company's Eleven to an impressive 5-2 aggregate win over Porto, achieved thanks to a 3-1 away win in the second leg. Something similar in Glasgow would be enough to put this tie to bed, but the German's know the size of the task that awaits. Leverkusen warmed up for this match with a stunning 4-0 home win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, Sampaio Filho netting a double, his goals coming less than six minutes apart. They have now won each of their last two outings by two goals or more.
Leverkusen favourites for away win
These sides first met in the UEFA Cup back in 1998 when Rangers secured a famous 2-1 win thanks to goals from Giovani van Bronckhorst and Jonatan Johansson, bettering a late Thomas Reichenberger strike. In the return leg at Ibrox, Johansson was again on target before Ulf Kirsten struck for a 1-1 finish. Much has changed at both clubs since.
Leverkusen scored three in Porto in the last round and it's worth remembering Braga netted twice at Ibrox before a late fightback from the hosts. There's little doubt the Rangers players will up their game considerably for this match but betting on the Betfair Sportsbook has Bayer Leverkusen as 6/5 favourites against the 9/4 of Rangers and 5/2 the draw.
Trust both to score
Both teams have scored in three of Rangers' last four Europa League matches, the spare being that 1-0 in Braga. Rangers stood firm in defence that evening, hitting their opponents on the break as they became desperate. Both teams scored in Leverkusen's two Europa League ties against Porto and in three of their last four in all competitions. Both teams to find the net on Thursday is 4/6 on the Betfair Sportsbook and that looks one for your accumulators.
Sticking with the stats and both scored in a Rangers win in their last outing in this competition at Ibrox. Both scored in a Leverkusen win when visiting Porto. Those after a bigger price will be interested to learn both score Rangers win is 9/2 on the Sportsbook, Bayer are 16/5 in the same market. Over 2.5 goals will attract attention at 4/5.