Football Features

Rangers’ best and worst opponents in the Europa League last-32 draw

By Chris Smith

Rangers Europa League

Published: 19:20, 15 December 2019

After an impressive group stage campaign, Rangers are now in the hat for the Europa League last-32 draw.

Steven Gerrard’s men finished second to FC Porto in Group G but impressively lost just one of their six games, finishing above Young Boys and Dutch giants Feyenoord.

As always in the Europa League last-32, teams are unable to draw other sides from their domestic league or their group, while the best four teams dropping in from the Champions League will join Europa League group winners in the seeded pot.

Celtic winning Group E and Porto advancing from Group G along with Rangers leaves the Scottish side with 14 potential opponents to draw. They are Ajax, Arsenal, Basel, Benfica, Braga, Espanyol, Gent, Inter Milan, Istanbul Basaksehir, LASK, Malmo, Manchester United, Salzburg and Sevilla.

A potential face-off with Manchester United screams out to the neutral straight away, but does Gerrard really have enough confidence in his squad to overcome that particular test? Gerrard’s old foe aside, there are a number of other tantalising prospects on offer, so who will Rangers want to avoid in the last-32 and which side would give them the best chance of advancing?

We’ve taken a look below…

What’s the best draw Rangers could get in the Europa League last-32?

Linzer Athletik-Sport-Klub

Best Europa League finish: Last-32 (current season)

Current domestic league position: 2nd in Austrian Bundesliga

Head-to-head: N/A

LASK impressively topped a Group D containing Sporting CP, PSV Eindhoven and Rosenborg but are still very much European minnows, taking part in their second continental campaign since the 2000 Intertoto Cup.

Valérien Ismaël’s approach is predicated on keeping things tight at the back, with his side conceding just four goals in the group stages and a division-low 16 goals in the Austrian Bundesliga so far this term.

However, with the likes of Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Kent up top, Gerrard’s side should have enough difference-makers to crack LASK open, while their six Europa League goals and 10 Scottish Premiership goals conceded proves the Gers are themselves experts in shutouts.

What’s the worst draw Rangers could get in the Europa League last-32?

Inter Milan

Best Europa League finish: Winners (x3 Uefa Cup era)

Current domestic league position: 2nd in Serie A (with a game in hand on Juventus)

Head-to-head: Rangers wins: 2 Draws: 1 Inter wins: 3

Antonio Conte has restored Inter as a serious force and the Nerazzurri currently sit second behind only Juventus in the Serie A table.

Romelu Lukaku is firing on all cylinders, the likes of Marcelo Brozovic and Nicolo Barella form a brilliant midfield and they’re flush with experience at the highest level – Diego Godin alone has played 105 games in European competition.

Home or away, it’s hard to see Rangers having enough to get past Inter, whose style of possession football under Conte can suck the life out of you and leave you chasing shadows.

This would certainly be a glamour tie and the atmosphere at Ibrox would be incredible, but it would likely end Rangers’ European adventure for another season.

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