STEVEN Gerrard last night claimed Bayer Leverkusen are one of the favourites to win the Europa League and admitted the German club were the toughest opponents Rangers could have been handed in the last 16.
Scotland’s last remaining representatives in European competition, who defeated Braga 1-0 in Portugal on Wednesday night to progress, were yesterday drawn to play Leverkusen in a double header next month. 
The Bundesliga club thrashed Porto 5-2 on aggregate in their last-32 tie and Gerrard feels that performance underlines that Peter Bosz’s team are 
capable of triumphing in the competition this season.
“I think they are one of the favourites because of the way they’ve just gone and dealt with Porto,” Gerrard said. “They deserve to be one of the favourites. It’s exciting, but it’s also going to be very tough. It’s one of the toughest ties we could have got.
“My own experience from playing against German teams and German players is that it was always very tough. They are big, strong, physical athletes. Tactically they are very astute.”
Gerrard squared up to Leverkusen three times during his time with Liverpool and has played in their Bay Arena twice, 
winning once. 
“I know the stadium, it’s a fantastic venue,” he said. “It’s really close to the pitch and it’s an exciting place to go and play football. It’s not a huge stadium, if I’m guessing it’s around 30,000, but the fans are all around the ground, very close to the pitch and it will be a good challenge for the players.” 
Meanwhile, Gerrard, who could include Jermain Defoe in his squad for the William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final against Hearts at Tynecastle this evening, backed Rangers to overcome their penalty problems.   
Ianis Hagi had a first-half spot kick saved by Braga keeper Matheus in Portugal and James Tavernier, Alfredo Morelos and Scott Arfield have all had difficulties converting from 12 yards before him. 
“We’ll try and find a solution,” he said. “Penalties are one where players have to take ownership, really. We’ve tried different solutions and, right now where we stand, those solutions haven’t worked. 
“But, when the next one comes around I’m sure we’ll have a willing taker brave enough to stand up and take that opportunity.