Leon Bailey is optimistic Bayer Leverkusen can beat fellow UEFA Champions League aspirants Schalke on Sunday after scoring his ninth league goal of the season in Die Werkself’s 2-1 triumph at Hamburg on Matchday 23.
The in-form Jamaican helped Heiko Herrlich’s side return to winning ways against the Red Shorts following the 2-0 home defeat to Hertha Berlin last weekend, opening the scoring with an opportunistic strike five minutes before the break.
Herrlich’s charges face another stern test of their top-four credentials against the Royal Blues, but Bailey is confident his side can claim another valuable win against Domenico Tedesco’s troops.
“It’s a crucial game,” he said. “I have full confidence in the team, though. We have quality in abundance, everyone fights for each other and the fans are behind us. I know we can keep this run going.”
Watch: Bailey: "We're grateful for the win"
Bailey has developed a keen eye for the spectacular this term, his remarkable back-heel against Hoffenheim and sensational long-range drive against Mainz two of the most recent instalments in a growing portfolio of stunning goals.
The 20-year-old’s opener against HSV, however, owed more to the Jamaican’s exceptional awareness than his preternatural ability to manipulate the ball. Capitalising on a moment of hesitation by defender Douglas Santos, Bailey managed to dispossess the Brazilian full-back inside the area before stroking the ball into the net from close range.
“I just anticipated the situation really well,” Bailey explained. “I saw that he wasn’t able to get the ball under control right away, so I ran towards him and just nicked it off him. All I had to do then was slide the ball home.”
Sunday’s clash with Schalke is the first of a tough run of fixtures for Leverkusen, with Herrlich’s charges facing a trip to Wolfsburg before games against fierce local rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach (home) and Cologne (away), but Bailey feels the victory at Hamburg stands them in good stead for the challenges ahead.
“It was extremely important to get the three points, particularly with such difficult games coming up,” he said. “It’s important that we keep our eye on the ball now. We need to stay calm, keep working hard and continue to pick up points.”