After a seven-goal epic in Belgium last week, the stakes will be high for Rangers and Antwerp.
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Rangers have the edge as they host Antwerp in a UEFA Europa League round of 32 second leg that has a lot to live up to after a seven-goal thriller in Belgium.
• Rangers topped their group in impressive style during the autumn, doing the double over both Lech Poznań and Antwerp's domestic rivals Standard Liège as well as holding Benfica to two draws. Antwerp finished second in Group J, their 12-point tally one fewer than that of section winners Tottenham Hotspur, who leapfrogged them with a 2-0 win in London on Matchday 6.
• An incident-packed first meeting of the two clubs on 18 February ended in a 4-3 win for Rangers thanks to Borna Barišić’s added-time penalty – his second of the evening – after Antwerp had recovered from going a goal down to lead 2-1 and 3-2, the pick of the seven goals coming from Antwerp’s Martin Hongla and Rangers’ Ryan Kent.
• 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 nine games against Belgian opposition (W7 D1), the two most recent before this tie's first leg 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'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).
• 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.
• Rangers' 1-3 loss to Leverkusen in last season's round of 16 first leg is the only home defeat in their last 22 UEFA matches at Ibrox (W15 D6). The clean sheet on Matchday 2 against Lech (1-0) is nevertheless the only one they have managed in their last seven European home fixtures, seven having been registered in the previous eight.
• Rangers have won all 18 previous UEFA ties in which they registered an away win in the first leg, although only one of the nine such ties in the past 30 years has been outside the qualifying phase – a UEFA Cup second-round success against Leverkusen in 1998/99 (2-1 a, 1-1 h). The Scottish club have never previously won an away first leg 4-3.
• 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 Frank Vercauteren.
• This is Antwerp's first springtime European tie since the 1992/93 European Cup Winners' Cup final, which they lost 1-0 to Parma at Wembley.
• The Great Old had not won away in Europe since 1992 – a run of seven matches (D3 L4) – until they beat Ludogorets 2-1 in Bulgaria in this season's UEFA Europa League opener. They made it two away wins out of two in Group J by defeating LASK 2-0 in Linz on Matchday 4 before losing that closing group encounter at Spurs.
• Antwerp have lost all three previous European ties in which they were defeated in the first leg at home, most recently against Newcastle United in the 1994/95 UEFA Cup first round (0-5 h, 2-5 a).
UEFA Europa League squad changes
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)
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
Links and trivia
• Rangers' Romanian midfielder Ianis Hagi spent the first half of 2019/20 in Belgium with Genk before joining the Scottish club, initially 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.
• 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.
• Uruguayan striker Felipe Avenatti, who scored the first of Antwerp's three goals in the first leg, joined in January from Standard, with whom he appeared twice as a substitute against Rangers in the group stage.
• 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.
• Rangers' record in four UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W3 L1:
1-3 v Borussia Dortmund, 1999/2000 UEFA Cup third round
4-3 v Paris Saint-Germain, 2001/02 UEFA Cup third round
4-2 v Marítimo, 2004/05 UEFA Cup first round
4-2 v Fiorentina, 2007/08 UEFA Cup semi-final
• Antwerp's record in one UEFA penalty shoot-out is W1 L0:
3-1 v Glenavon, 1992/93 European Cup Winners' Cup first round