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Villarreal v Rangers facts

Villarreal boast the most games, wins and goals in the UEFA Europa League as they take on returning Rangers.

Villarreal are looking to kick off with a home win again
Villarreal are looking to kick off with a home win again ©AFP/Getty Images

Rangers return to European group stage football after an eight-year absence and are thrown in at the deep end at the home of Villarreal, the club boasting the most games, wins and goals in the UEFA Europa League.

Previous meetings
• The teams have been paired together once before, meeting in the last 16 of the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League, with the Liga club taking the tie on away goals after a 2-2 draw in Glasgow and a 1-1 draw in Spain. It was Villarreal's debut season in the competition, and they went on to reach the semi-finals.

• Rangers have never won in 11 visits to Spain, their nine defeats all incurred without scoring a goal, most recently 3-0 at Valencia in the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League group stage.

• Villarreal, on the other hand, are unbeaten in three home games against Scottish opponents, keeping clean sheets in both of their two wins – against Celtic.

Form guide
• Rangers qualified for 2018/19 European competition with a third-placed finish in last season's Scottish Premiership. They are one of four teams to have reached this group stage after beginning their UEFA Europa League journey in the first qualifying round, knocking out Shkupi, Osijek, Maribor and, in the play-offs, Russian side FC Ufa – all without losing a match.

• This is the Gers' debut appearance in a UEFA Europa League group stage, although they reached the last 16 in 2010/11 after crossing over in mid-campaign from the UEFA Champions League. They were UEFA Cup runners-up in 2007/08, losing 2-0 in the Manchester final to Zenit.

• Defeated unexpectedly by Progrès Niedercorn of Luxembourg in last season's UEFA Europa League first qualifying round on their return to Europe after a six-year wait, Rangers have won only one of their last 17 continental fixtures outside Scotland (D11 L5) – 1-0 at Osijek this season.

Top ten goals of the 2017/18 UEFA Europa League season

• Villarreal finished fifth in the 2017/18 Spanish Liga to qualify for Europe for the fifth successive season, all of them featuring UEFA Europa League group stage participation – and progress into the competition's knockout phase.

• The Spanish club hold the record not only for the most games played in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final (62), but also the most wins (33) and the most goals scored (104).

• Their record at home in 18 group stage matches is W13 D2 L3, two of those defeats in the last two seasons – against Osmanlıspor (1-2) in 2016/17 and Maccabi Tel-Aviv (0-1) in 2017/18. Indeed, they have lost five of their last nine home fixtures in Europe, winning just three. However, on each of the three occasions that they have played at home in the UEFA Europa League on matchday one, they have been victorious, most recently last season against FC Astana (3-1).

Links and trivia 
• Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos made his senior international debut for Colombia as a substitute in a friendly against Venezuela on 7 September 2018. Villarreal's Carlos Bacca was in Colombia's starting XI.

• Rangers are one of ten clubs in the 2018/19 group stage who have lost UEFA Cup or UEFA Europa League finals, the others being Anderlecht, Vidi, Salzburg, Bordeaux, Lazio, Arsenal, Celtic, Sporting CP and, on three occasions, Marseille. Of that group only Anderlecht have lifted the trophy.

The coaches
• Javier Calleja took over as Villarreal's new coach on 25 September 2017 following Fran Escribá's dismissal. He represented the club as a player from 1999 to 2006, having started out at academy level with Real Madrid, and returned as a youth coach in 2012/13 after hanging up his boots. He was coaching the B team, a position he had held for only a few weeks, when he was promoted to the top job. Villarreal finished fifth in the Liga in his first season in charge.

• A Liverpool great with 186 goals in 710 appearances for the Anfield club, most of them as captain, Steven Gerrard launched his managerial career at Glasgow giants Rangers in May 2018. An England international for 14 years, accumulating 114 caps and 21 goals, the dynamic midfielder won the UEFA Cup and UEFA Champions League with Liverpool. After an 18-month end-of-career spell with LA Galaxy he returned to coach Liverpool's youth team before the job at Ibrox lured him to Scotland.