There’s not a Rangers fan out there who underestimates the challenge ahead in the Europa League against Bayer Leverkusen.
The German outfit will undoubtedly be the biggest test of Steven Gerrard’s tenure to date and fans will be hoping his talented young squad can rise to the occasion, as they have done so often in Europe.
Champions League drop-outs Leverkusen may be a formidable force on paper, but they have been rocked by the news star striker Kevin Volland faces three months on the sidelines.
Germany international Volland is Leverkusen’s top scorer and main striker, with his 16 goal involvements in the Bundesliga more than double that of nearest teammate Kai Havertz (8) [Bundesliga].
The 27-year-old striker is the form player in a form team, with his 10 goals meaning he contributes in front of goal more than any other player in the German’s side team [BBC Sport].
Havertz has now been ruled out after tearing the syndesmosis ligament in his left ankle after sustaining an injury at the end of Leverkusen’s 3-1 Europa League win over Porto.
Kevin Volland has torn the syndesmosis ligament in his left ankle and will be out for around 3 months. 😔
— Bayer 04 Leverkusen (@bayer04_en) February 24, 2020
Should he remain fit, Leverkusen can still call on the impressive Argentine striker Lucas Alario [8 goals] to be the focal point of their 4-3-3 formation.
But nonetheless, this represents a considerable blow for a side aiming for Champions League qualification domestically and harbouring ambitions to challenge for the Europa League.
Volland’s absence will be considerable and puts his place at Euro 2020 with Germany under threat, but there are plenty of quality options at the Bay Arena.
Leverkusen -managed by former Holland international Peter Bosz – have won nine of their last 10, even beating that impressive young Dortmund side 4-3 in the Bundesliga.
They also routinely despatched Rangers’ group rivals Porto 5-2 on aggregate and have a team littered with young talent like revered wonderkid Kai Havertz, €32m record signing Kerem Demirbay and pacey Jamaican winger Bailey.
Still, it’s difficult to argue that Leverkusen are not a decidedly weaker team without the influence of the creative forward.