Bayer Leverkusen manager Peter Bosz claims it’s ‘advantage Rangers’ for the upcoming Europa League last 16 tie, before adding his assessment of the Ibrox pitch, as quoted by the Scottish Herald.
The Dutchman, who has been in charge of the German club since 2018, has masterminded an excellent run of form in recent months, with his side losing just one of their last 13 matches in all competitions.
They’re undoubtedly favourites ahead of this two-legged encounter, being ranked 70 places above the Gers in 24th in the UEFA Club Coefficient.
However, Bosz believes that outside factors are tipping the balance in Steven Gerrard’s team’s favour.
The first leg is set to be played out in front of a packed Ibrox while the return game in Germany will be behind closed doors. He believes that could have a significant impact.
“Absolutely, it’s advantage Rangers but they are not to blame because they haven’t decided it,” said the Leverkusen manager, as quoted by the Scottish Herald.
“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, in turn, are playing in front of an empty stadium…No one is to blame, but it is strange.”
He then went on to address the state of the Ibrox surface.
The pitch had a beach-like appearance for the Round of 32 meeting against Braga, and is still in a fragile state, with neither side able to train on it prior to the game.
“Sure I’m disappointed we can’t train on it because it is a rhythm you have in Europe – something special,” he continued. “We had a little tour and the players went back to the hotel but, OK, we have to adapt to it.
“We can’t complain – it is what it is. A good pitch would have been important to us but we will still try to play our own style of offensive football.”
Much of the talk in the build-up to this fixture has been about Leverkusen’s form and quality, but Bosz was quick to make his feelings known about the concept of playing matches behind closed doors.
In what is probably a mixture of genuine opinion and an effort to take the pressure off his squad, he made a point of suggesting that Rangers have an advantage before a ball is kicked.
It’s hard to disagree that Leverkusen will be hindered by a lack of home support in the second leg and the Gers’ job is to ensure that the tie is still live by that point.
They could be aided in that quest by a bumpy and slow Ibrox pitch which would be considered a hindrance in domestic competition.
This time, though, the opposition have a host of pacey, technical players such as Kai Havertz and Leon Bailey who may find it tough to reach their top levels on an unhelpful surface.
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