"People think we are too young to win the competition," said Leverkusen's Leon Bailey with a smile.
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The top scoring side in the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League with 24 goals, Peter Bosz’s youthful Leverkusen must show their hunger again as they look to overturn a first-leg deficit against Young Boys.
The Bundesliga team deluged opponents with goals throughout the group stage, but got a taste of their own medicine in Berne where they went in at the break 3-0 down. However, Bayer roared back in the second half and pulled it back to 3-3 before conceding at the last. If a 4-3 win was cause for Young Boys celebration, Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick knows this round of 32 tie is far from over. "We can play better," he told UEFA.com. "We won’t concede four goals and we still have a good chance."
Given their all-out attacking style, and the inexperience of some of their star performers, Leverkusen are a volatile unit; they score lots of goals and concede a fair few too, but it is all part of Dutch boss Bosz’s blueprint. "It's not enough to win games – we want to do it in a special way," he said. "We're there to entertain the fans. I want to win with offensive, attractive, dominant football."
Crucial to that charismatic template has been the form of forwards Moussa Diaby, 21, and Leon Bailey, 23, with each given free rein to express themselves. "For me, age is not important," Bosz said. "In the end, it’s about quality." With four goals in seven tournament matches, Frenchman Diaby is showing plenty of that. "You don’t always have to have experience," explained the one-time Paris Saint-Germain tyro. "Sometimes it's all about the feeling."
Jamaican attacker Bailey has emerged as one of the hottest properties in the competition, and hopes he can continue to leave his mark on the UEFA Europa League. Eliminating Young Boys is no formality, but if Leverkusen can get out of their predicament, they will be a serious threat to any side in the last 16. "People think we are too young to win the competition," the five-goal Bailey said. "They’ve obviously never seen what we can do."