Leon Bailey and Wes Morgan will be Jamaica’s pair of players set to be involved in this season’s Europa League, which kicks off on 22 October.
Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Bailey, who is rumoured to be desperately wanting a move from the German Bundesliga club, competed in last term’s Europa League and scored a late wondergoal against hosts Rangers in March.
Leicester City defender Morgan is scheduled to play in his inaugural Europa League competition. The former skipper of Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz helped Leicester City reach the 2016-17 Champions League quarter-finals, where they bravely bowed out 2-1 on aggregate to Spanish giants Athletico Madrid.
Bailey’s Bayer Leverkusen only narrowly missed out on reaching the Champions League on the last day of the domestic season, but they finished fifth to qualify for the Europa League. The club, who were crowned winners of the 1987-88 UEFA Cup and finished runner-up to Real Madrid in the 2001-02 UEFA Champions League, have been drawn in Group C.
Bayer Levenkusen will tackle Israel outfit Hapoel Be’er-Sheva 2007, which is run and owned since 2007 by businesswoman Alona Barket. They also face French club OGC Nice, who are coached by former Arsenal star Patrick Viera, and Czech league champions Slavia Prague.
Morgan’s Leicester City also failed to qualify for the Champions League on the final day of the season, following a home English Premier League defeat to Manchester United. But their first foray into the Europa League has handed them a favourable draw and pitted the team against AEK Athens, SC Braga and Zorya Luhansk in Group G.
Greek team AEK Athens failed to make an impact in last year’s tournament, tasting defeat in all six matches in their group stage. SC Braga, who finished third in the Portuguese top tier last term, finished 2010-11 UEFA Europa League runner-up and are an up-and-coming outfit. Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk missed out on reached in the 2019-20 group stage, beaten 5-3 on aggregate in the play-off against Spain’s Espanyol.
The initial three group matches are due to take place on successive Thursdays from 22 October, with 23-year-old Bailey particularly keen to make an impact to showcase his silky skills having shown indifferent form over the past 21 months. Veteran Morgan, no longer first choice in the heart of defence and having been overlooked by the Boyz for the past three years, will be expected to be involved for the group games as head coach Brendan Rodgers tends to rotate his squad.
2020-21 Europa League draw
Group A | AS Roma, CFR Cluj, CSKA Sofia & Young Boys
Group B | Arsenal, Dundalk, Molde & Rapid Vienna
Group C | Bayer Leverkusen, Hapoel Be’er-Sheva, OGC Nice & Slavia Prague
Group D | Benfica, Lech Poznan, Rangers & Standard Liege
Group E | Granada, Omonoia, PAOK & PSV Eindhoven
Group F | AZ Alkmaar, HNK Rijeka, Napoli & Real Sociedad
Group G | AEK Athens, Leicester City, SC Braga & Zorya Luhansk
Group H | AC Milan, Celtic, Lille & Sparta Prague
Group I | Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Qarabag, Sivasspor & Villarreal
Group J | LASK, Ludogorets, Royal Antwerp & Tottenham Hotspur
Group K | CSKA Moscow, Dinamo Zagreb, Feyenoord & Wolfsberger
Group L | Gent, Hoffenheim, Red Star Belgrade & Slovan Liberec
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