Jamaica’s Bailey says Bayer Leverkusen aiming high
Bayer Leverkusen got its young speedster back at the right time.
Leon Bailey’s cut through Bayern Munich on Saturday, scoring twice in 63 minutes for a picture perfect return from a two-match red card suspension.
Both goals showed his knack for using the right angles to execute runs with his blazing speed, as the 22-year-old Jamaican scored his 20th and 21st career Bundesliga goals to lift Bayer to within six points of first place Borussia Monchengladbach via a 2-1 win at the Allianz Arena.
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It looks like an open league. And Bailey wants to see his team finish higher than its fourth place standing of the 2018/19 season.
“I see our team being at the highest level,” Bailey tells ProSoccerTalk three days after his big performance in Munich. “We have, of all the teams right now, the best chance to be in the Top Three this year.
“The Bundesliga level is high right now and the points are very close, and even the teams that are behind are doing their best to beat teams ahead of them which makes it more complicated but it’s a very intense league and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Bayer hasn’t had Bailey for much of the season, the Bayern match his sixth league appearance in 13 opportunities thanks to the aforementioned red card suspension and a muscle injury.
He’s also managed just two 45-minute appearances in Bayer’s UEFA Champions League run, which is still alive against the odds.
Bayer lost its first three matches of the group stage and had most leaving it for dead, but beat Atletico Madrid and Lokomotiv Moscow to set up a final match day visit from Juventus.
And Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. aren’t scaring Bailey’s teammates, who need to beat already-qualified Juve and see Atleti drop points at home to Lokomotiv.
“We enter with the same approach toward every game, go into it with 100 percent focus and hopefully we can beat them here at home,” Bailey said.
It’s been a wild ride for Bailey, who started his career with Genk in Belgium, amassing 15 goals and 21 assists in 77 matches.
And at long last he’s debuted for Jamaica, earning six caps since the start of the Gold Cup in June.
Bailey assisted against the USMNT in the Reggae Boyz’s 3-1 semifinal loss, and got his first goal in a September win over Antigua and Barbuda in the CONCACAF Nations League.
“It made me learn a lot and I’m grateful that I can actually help my country, be there for them right now, and hopefully we can make it to a World Cup,” he said.
Jamaica’s the fourth ranked team in CONCACAF and will be contesting the Hex in a bid to land its first World Cup bid since 1998, its only appearance in the tournament.
“It would mean everything to me, of course for the country,” Bailey said. “Right now we have a good team, Since I joined the team a lot of English players came and I think we have a good possibility to make it.”
That, most likely, would mean getting the best of Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT.
Bailey says he sees some comparisons between what Bayer did against Bayern and what the Reggae Boyz will need to do to the Yanks.
“They have a lot of quality players and they have a system that reminds me a little bit of how Bayern Munich plays, but we can defeat them if we put our minds to it like we did against Bayern Munich.”