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Rangers FC have every reason to be confident as they prepare to meet Sporting Clube de Portugal in the UEFA Europa League round of 32, with the Scottish team holding a historical edge over the Lions.
• This will be the clubs' fifth European fixture. The sides have crossed paths in two previous knockout ties and not only did the Ibrox outfit win through both times – the first in rather dramatic circumstances – they went on to reach a European final on each occasion.
• They first went head-to-head in the second round of the 1971/72 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. Rangers won 3-2 at home but lost by the same margin over 90 minutes in the return leg to send the game into extra time.
• Willie Henderson scored again for Rangers in the 100th minute, with Fernando Peres replying before the end for Sporting. With the scores level, a penalty shoot-out was held which the hosts won, but it was then ascertained that the recently-introduced away-goals rule should have been applied, meaning it was Rangers who progressed.
• Rangers subsequently progressed to the showpiece, where they beat FC Dinamo Moskva 3-2 to win their only major European trophy to date.
• The sides met again in the 2007/08 UEFA Cup quarter-finals, drawing 0-0 in Glasgow before goals from Jean-Claude Darcheville and Steven Whittaker earned Rangers a 2-0 win in Lisbon. The Scottish club's run then took them to the final in Manchester, where they lost 2-0 to FC Zenit St Petersburg.
• The teams for their most recent meeting at Ibrox on 3 April 2008 were:
Rangers: McGregor*, Weir*, Papac*, Ferguson, Hemdani, Thomson, Darcheville (Novo 72), Broadfoot*, Cuéllar, McCulloch*, Davis*.
Sporting: Rui Patrício*, Anderson Polga*, Izmailov* (Bruno Pereirinha 70), Vukčević* (Yannick Djaló* 75), Tonel, Leandro Grimi*, Miguel Veloso, João Moutinho, Romagnoli, Liedson*, Abel*.
*still with the club
• Rangers' record in 12 games against Portuguese opponents reads W7 D2 L3 (W5 D1 L0 in Glasgow). Sporting are the only Portuguese side to have avoided defeat at Ibrox, having claimed that aforementioned goalless draw in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals three seasons ago.
• Sporting's 12 meetings with teams from Scotland have earned them the record W5 D1 L6 (W0 D1 L5 in Scotland). That 0-0 draw at Rangers remains their best result on Scottish soil.
• This will be Rangers' first game in the UEFA Europa League since they succumbed to Zenit in the 2007/08 UEFA Cup final.
• Rangers are without a victory in their last four European fixtures, having recorded two defeats and two draws since beating Bursaspor 1-0 at Ibrox in this season's UEFA Champions League group stage.
• Sporting have lost their last two European away games, bringing to an end a run of three straight continental successes on the road.
• If Rangers concede two more goals they will reach 350 against in UEFA competition; this will be their 284th UEFA club competition fixture.
• Sporting have contested more UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League matches than any other side in the round of 32: this will be their 128th.
• Sporting have tended to be fast starters in Europe this season, notching ten of their 14 UEFA Europa League group stage goals before the break.
• Pedro Mendes was a Rangers player for around 18 months, winning the 2008/09 Scottish title but missing their cup final success in the same season through injury. He left Ibrox for Sporting in January 2010.
• Sporting's German goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand faced Rangers in two 2003/04 UEFA Champions League group stage games with VfB Stuttgart; his side lost 2-1 in Glasgow but prevailed 1-0 at home.
• Sporting forward Hélder Postiga played against Rangers at this stage of the competition in 2007/08 while on loan at Panathinaikos FC. His side lost on away goals as Rangers went on to reach the final.
• Sporting's Evaldo was an unused substitute as Rangers beat his CS Marítimo team 1-0 at Ibrox in a 2004/05 UEFA Cup first round encounter, before winning the tie 4-2 on penalties.
• The overall winners will take on the victors in the tie between LOSC Lille Métropole and PSV Eindhoven in the round of 16 on 10 and 17 March, playing the first leg away from home.
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