Rangers boss Steven Gerrard says Bayer Leverkusen among favourites to win Europa League

Kai Havertz of Bayer Leverkusen celebrates after scoring his side's third goal against Porto
Image: Kai Havertz scored in Bayer Leverkusen's 3-1 second-leg win against Porto

Steven Gerrard says Bayer Leverkusen are among the favourites to win the Europa League but insists Rangers are relishing the chance to test themselves against the Bundesliga side.

The Gers' reward for beating Portuguese side Braga home and away was a last-16 tie against Peter Bosz's team, who are fifth in their domestic league.

The first game is scheduled for Ibrox on March 12 and the return leg a week later, with Rangers set to host Celtic in an Old Firm clash in the Premiership in between.

Kent's goal was the difference as Rangers progressed in Braga
Image: Ryan Kent's goal was the difference as Rangers progressed in Braga

In their last-32 tie Leverkusen beat Porto, who won Rangers' qualifying group, home and away 5-2 on aggregate, a feat that impressed Gerrard.

"I think they are one of the favourites," Gerrard said. "The way they have dealt with Porto, I think they deserve to be one of the favourites.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard during the match against Feyenoord 0:31
Steven Gerrard hopes the 'real' Rangers show up against Hearts in the Scottish Cup quarter-final on Saturday

"Ever since I made my debut, my experience of playing against German players and German teams is that they are always tough, big strong athletes who are tactically astute.

"It is exciting but it is going to be very tough."

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The former Liverpool and England captain also highlighted the potential challenges of the second leg at the BayArena.

Steven Gerrard's Liverpool side beat Bayer Leverkusen on their way to Champions League glory in 2005
Image: Steven Gerrard's Liverpool side beat Bayer Leverkusen on their way to Champions League glory in 2005

He said: "I know their stadium, it is a fantastic stadium. I have played there and experienced it and it can be an exciting place to go, real close to the pitch.

"The atmosphere is electric there, it is not a huge stadium but it is real close to the pitch and German fans all around the stadium, so it will be a good challenge for the players."

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