UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg! RB Leipzig take on Scottish record champions Glasgow Rangers on Thursday. The first leg was held at home at the RB Arena and ended in a 1-0 win for the Red Bulls thanks to an Angeliño strike. Seven days later, the two sides meet again at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow.
RBL head to Scotland on the back of a 3-1 defeat in the Bundesliga, while Rangers were in action in the famous Old Firm derby on Sunday, where Fashion Sakala’s equaliser secured a point in the 1-1 draw against Celtic.
THEIR SEASON SO FAR
Scottish record champions Rangers secured their first league title in ten years last season. This year’s Scottish Premier League is currently into the final round, during which the league’s twelve teams are split into a “top-six” and a “bottom-six” group, and Rangers are still fighting to retain their title, sitting just six points behind fierce local rivals Celtic in second place. It’s a crucial stage of the season for the Glasgow-based side: In between the two semi-final legs against RB Leipzig is an “Old Firm” derby against Celtic on 1st May- the Glasgow derby is known as one of the best in world football. A win here could give Rangers a real boost and could be a decisive victory in the title race. This coming week could perhaps be the most important in the entire season for our upcoming opponents.
Rangers are currently still fighting on three fronts: whilst also competing for the Scottish Premier League and the Europa League, they’ve also reached the final of the Scottish FA Cup, where they will face Hearts on 21st May.
On the whole, Rangers are tough opposition to face. They’ve only lost three times in 34 league matches in 2021/22, and have lost just once in their last 12 matches. However, there is a big gap in quality when it comes to the top two sides in Scotland and the rest of the SPL, and in European competition this season, Rangers have already suffered six defeats this season.
THEIR JOURNEY TO THE EUROPA LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL
Rangers were eliminated in their UEFA Champions League qualifier against Swedish champions Malmö (4-2 on aggregate), before defeating Armenia side Alashkert 1-0 on aggregate in the final qualifying round of the Europa League and reaching the group stage.
Their group consisted of themselves, Lyon, Sparta Prague and Bröndby, and they began their Europa League campaign poorly with two defeats against Lyon and Sparta Prague. However, two wins and two draws from their remaining four matches saw them edge into second place in group A.
The biggest win for the Scots was without a doubt their victory over Borussia Dortmund in the knockout round play-offs. Despite being the underdogs, Rangers took control of the tie with a 4-2 win in Dortmund and sealed their place in the next round with a 2-2 draw at Ibrox.
Rangers came up against Serbian champions Red Star Belgrade in the round of 16. They dispatched their opponents comfortably in the first leg with a 3-0 win at Ibrox, and despite losing 2-1 in the second leg, they advanced to the quarterfinals. The Scots faced Portugal’s Braga in the last eight and went into the second leg with a 1-0 deficit to overturn. The tie went to extra time after Rangers were 2-1 up after 90 minutes. Striker Kemar Roofe scored the decisive goal to send his side in the semi-final.
Their most well known player is Aaron Ramsey. The former Arsenal man is currently on loan from Juventus and only plays a minor role at the moment due to injury.
Captain James Tavernier is Ranger’s most important player. The 30-year-old right-back was named the player of the season in 2020/21 and has continued his good form this campaign. He has an impressive 31 direct goal contributions (15 goals, 16 assists) in 51 appearances this term and has even scored six goals in the Europa League.
Pulling the strings in midfield are Nigeria international Joe Aribo and Finland international Glen Kamara. The 37-year-old veteran Steven Davis is having less of an impact.
Alfredo Morelos’ 19 goals this season make him Rangers’ most deadly striker, but the Colombian is currently out through injury. Hopes therefore are pinned on Fashion Sakala, who has ten goals this season and Kemar Roofe who has 16. Left-winger Ryan Kent is also a danger man when it comes to assists. The Englishman has already assisted 17 goals so far this season.
Players you may know from the Bundesliga include the ex-Mainz man Leon Balogun and Cedric Itten, who was on loan at Greuther Fürth at the beginning of the season. Balogun is regularly used as a central defender alongside Connor Goldson, whereas Itten is used less frequently.
Giovanni Van Bronckhorst is at the helm, having taken over from Steven Gerrard back in November. This is the Dutchman’s second head coach role as he was previously in charge of Feyenoord. He played 106 times for the Dutch national team and has also brought the former Bayern striker Roy Makaay to the club as his assistant.