Rangers' group stage trip to Belgium witnessed a hard-fought win and goal for the ages – can Steven Gerrard's men repeat the trick in Antwerp?
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A place in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 awaits one of Antwerp and Rangers as the teams from Belgium and Scotland come together for the first time in UEFA competition.
• Antwerp finished second in Group J during the autumn, their 12-point tally one fewer than section winners Tottenham Hotspur, who leapfrogged them with a 2-0 win in London on Matchday 6. Rangers, meanwhile, topped their group in impressive style, doing the double over both Lech Poznań and Antwerp's domestic rivals Standard Liège as well as holding Benfica to two draws.
• Antwerp's only previous UEFA tie against Scottish opposition dates back to October 1989 and a 6-3 aggregate win over Dundee United in the second round of the UEFA Cup (4-0 h, 2-3 a).
• A 4-1 defeat by Standard in 1962 that contributed towards a 4-3 aggregate loss in the European Cup quarter-final is Rangers' only reverse in eight games against Belgian opposition (W6 D1), the two most recent being the Group D fixtures against Standard in the autumn, which the Glasgow giants won 2-0 away and 3-2 at home, skipper James Tavernier scoring a penalty in each game and striker Kemar Roofe capping the victory in Belgium with a spectacular goal from his own half.
• Antwerp beat champions Club Brugge 1-0 in the 2019/20 Belgian Cup final – the club's first victory in the competition for 28 years – to secure a place in the UEFA Europa League group stage for the first time.
• Last season Antwerp returned to European competition for the first time in a quarter of a century but were unable to negotiate their way through UEFA Europa League qualifying. However, this term they are through to the knockout phase, having won four of the six games on their group stage debut, including a memorable 1-0 home success against Tottenham, to finish two points ahead of third-placed LASK Linz. Since the group stage the club have replaced their cup-winning Croatian coach Ivan Leko with legendary former Belgian international Franky Vercauteren.
• This is Antwerp's first springtime European fixture since the 1992/93 European Cup Winners' Cup final, which they lost 1-0 to Parma at Wembley.
• Since then the Great Old have won three and lost five of their eight European home games, the victory against Spurs in this season's group stage accompanied by a 0-1 reverse against LASK and a 3-1 win against Ludogorets.
• Rangers were in second place 13 points behind Celtic when the 2019/20 Scottish Premiership came to a premature end. They also enjoyed a lengthy run in Europe, progressing from the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League all the way to the round of 16, where, as Scotland's last team standing, they were eliminated by Bayer Leverkusen (1-3 h, 0-1 a).
• Steven Gerrard's side came through three qualifiers to reach this season's group stage, beating Lincoln Red Imps (5-0) and Willem II (4-0) on the road before a 2-1 play-off success against Galatasaray at Ibrox. They made it five wins out of five by beating Standard and Lech (1-0 h) in the first two games of Group D before holding Benfica 3-3 in Lisbon and 2-2 in Glasgow and then posting second wins against their Belgian and Polish opponents to seal top spot.
• The Gers have won both of their previous UEFA Europa League round of 32 ties, overcoming Sporting CP on away goals in 2010/11 (1-1 h, 2-2 a) and another Portuguese club, Braga, last season (3-2 h, 1-0 a). They also won back-to-back UEFA Cup round of 32 ties in 2006/07 (v Hapoel Tel-Aviv, 1-2 a, 4-0 h) and 2007/08 (v Panathinaikos, 0-0 h, 1-1 a), going on to reach the final in the latter campaign.
• That 1-0 victory at Braga was Rangers' first on the road in the UEFA Europa League proper, their away record in the competition, group stage to final, now standing at W3 D6 L4. There have been no away defeats in Europe this season (W4 D1), with clean sheets in four of those five matches.
UEFA Europa League squad changes
In: Felipe Avanetti (Standard Liège, loan), Didier Lamkel Zé, Maxime Le Marchand (Fulham, loan), Ortwin De Wolf
Out: Cristian Benavente (Charleroi, loan), Simen Juklerød, Benson Manuel (Zwolle, loan), Jean Butez
In: Jack Simpson (Bournemouth), Scott Wright (Aberdeen)
Out: Brandon Barker (Oxford, loan), Nicky Hogarth (Cowdenbeath, loan), Dapo Mebude (Queen of the South, loan), Cameron Palmer (Linfield), Jack Thomson (Clyde, loan), Ben Williamson (Arbroath, loan)
Links and trivia
• Rangers' Ryan Jack is one game away from making his 50th appearance in UEFA club competition.
• Rangers' Romanian midfielder Ianis Hagi spent the first half of 2019/20 in Belgium with Genk before joining the Scottish club on loan.
• Roofe joined Rangers from Anderlecht in August 2020. His final match for the Brussels club was a 0-0 draw away to Antwerp on 27 December 2019.
• Uruguayan striker Felipe Avenatti joined Antwerp in January from Standard, with whom he appeared twice as a substitute against Rangers in the group stage.
• Antwerp striker Dieumerci Mbokani and Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor were both at English club Hull City during the first half of the 2016/17 season.
• Only one of Rangers manager Gerrard's 114 international appearances for England came against Belgium; he captained his country to a 1-0 friendly win at Wembley on 2 June 2012.
• One of six UEFA Europa League group stage debutants in 2020/21, Antwerp are now one of five clubs appearing in the knockout phase of the competition for the first time, the others being Granada, Hoffenheim, Leicester City and Wolfsberg.