MX23RW : Wednesday, August 4 19:24:01| >> :600:175707:175707:
Feb 18, 2021 at 8pm UK at Bosuilstadion
AntwerpRoyal Antwerp
Avenatti (45'), Refaelov (45+8' pen.), Hongla (66')
De Laet (58'), Seck (63'), Hongla (88')
Seck (88')
FT(HT: 2-1)
Aribo (38'), Barisic (59' pen., 90' pen.), Kent (83')
Barisic (44'), Kent (53'), Arfield (64')

Preview: Royal Antwerp vs. Rangers - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Royal Antwerp and Rangers, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Rangers travel to Royal Antwerp for their Europa League round of 32 tie on Thursday evening, hoping to extend their unbeaten run to 13 matches in all competitions and move one step closer to progressing to the latter stages.

Meanwhile, the hosts are taking part in their first European knockout match in 27 years and are looking to cause an upset against Scotland's in-form side.

Match preview

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard pictured on January 2, 2021© Reuters

Rangers progressed to the knockout stages of the Europa League for the second successive season after finishing top of Group D, ahead of Portuguese giants Benfica.

Steven Gerrard's side are one of only six teams who remain unbeaten in this season's competition, after winning four and drawing two of their six group matches, scoring 13 goals in the process.

The Gers have been in the headlines for what has been such a wonderful campaign for Rangers fans so far, seeing their team sit 18 points clear of rivals Celtic at the summit of the Scottish Premiership and on course to clinch their first title since 2011.

However, this past week has seen the Ibrox outfit in the headlines for more concerning matters as the club have launched an internal probe following allegations that several players breached coronavirus protocols after attending a house party which was broken up by police.

After Jordan Jones and George Edmundson were both handed a seven-game ban for a similar offense two months ago, it seems likely that further punishments will be handed out to any players who are identified as being involved, the last thing that Gerrard would want at this stage of the season.

The Gers head into Thursday's match having only lost the first leg of a major European knockout tie once in their last nine fixtures, although this was in last season's Europa League last-16 match against Bayer Leverkusen.

Rangers – who have already defeated Belgian opposition this campaign, beating Standard Liege twice during the group stages – will be keen to gain a foothold in the tie against a Royal Antwerp side who they have never faced in a competitive match.

Royal Antwerp players celebrate Lior Refaelov's goal against Tottenham Hotspur in October 2020© Reuters

Royal Antwerp have entered unfamiliar territory as they reached the knockout stages of a major European competition for the first time since losing 10-2 on aggregate to Newcastle United in the first round of the 1994-95 UEFA Cup.

The Great Old won four of their six Group J matches and finished second behind Tottenham Hotspur, despite claiming a surprise 1-0 home victory over Jose Mourinho's side back in October.

Antwerp are to play their first leg against the Gers in Belgium despite several other European matches being rescheduled to other destinations in Europe amid different coronavirus travel bans across the continent.

Franky Vercauteren's side head into Thursday's match having won only one of their previous four games against Scottish opponents, beating Dundee United 4-0 at home in the 1989-90 UEFA Cup.

Antwerp will be hoping to shore up their backline against the Gers after conceding in six of their last seven matches in all competitions, including a 3-1 defeat to Club Brugge in the Belgian Cup last Wednesday.

Even though Rangers will be red-hot favourites to progress from this last-32 tie, Antwerp know that a positive first leg result can give them belief that they can cause an upset and progress to the latter stages.

Royal Antwerp Europa League form: WWLWWL
Royal Antwerp form (all competitions): WWWWLD

Rangers Europa League form: WWDDWW
Rangers form (all competitions): DWWWDW

Team News

Rangers celebrate Scott Arfield's goal against Standard Liege in the Europa League on December 3, 2020© Reuters

Antwerp boss Franky Vercauteren is without several first-team players ahead of Thursday's match with top goalscorer Dieumerci Mbokani, who has missed the last four weeks with a calf injury, the most notable absentee.

Dylan Batubinsika and Jean Butez are both suffering with ankle injuries, while Faris Haroun and Matheus are also out with calf problems.

Striker Didier Lamkel Ze is also unavailable for selection as he is suspended for the first leg.

Uruguayan forward Felipe Avenatti, who signed on loan from Standard Liege last month, is set to lead the line against the Gers.

Colombian striker Alfredo Morelos, who has recently served a three-game domestic ban, is in contention to start up front ahead of Cedric Itten.

Defender Leon Balogun and forward Kemar Roofe are both just one booking away from a suspension, which would see them miss the second leg, although Gerrard is likely to pick the pair in his starting lineup.

Royal Antwerp possible starting lineup:
Beiranvand; Seck, Le Marchand, de Laet; De Pauw, Hongla, Boya, Lukaku; Gerkens, Refaelov; Avenatti

Rangers possible starting lineup:
McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic; Davies, Jack, Aribo; Roofe, Morelos, Kent

SM words green background

We say: Royal Antwerp 0-1 Rangers

Rangers have scored a solitary goal in five of their last six matches and may find it tough against a compact Royal Antwerp side who will make it difficult to break them down.

However, the Gers should have enough quality in the final third to take a narrow lead into their second leg at Ibrox next week.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data

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Thursday's key events

· The women's heptathlon continues with the long jump, javelin and 800m, with Katarina Johnson-Thompson now out of contention following an injury (1.10am-1.40pm)
· Andrew Pozzi pursues his dream of an Olympic medal in the men's 110m hurdles final (3.55am)
· Tom Bosworth and Callum Wilkinson are among the British hopes in the men's 20km race walk (8.30am)
· Holly Bradshaw aims to improve on fifth in Rio to challenge Greece's Katerina Stefanidi and Anzhelika Sidorova of Russia for an unlikely medal in the women's pole vault (11am)
· London 2012 champion Kirani James goes up against current world champion Steven Gardiner in the men's 400m final (1pm)

· One of the toughest Olympic events takes place in Tokyo Bay as GB's Hector Pardoe takes on the men's 20km marathon swim (10.30pm Wed)

· Galal Yafai takes on takes on Kazakhstan's Saken Bibossinov for a spot in the gold medal bout of the fly (48kg-52kg) class (6.48am)

· Lois Toulson and Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix (daughter of First Dates' Fred Sirieix) line up for the women's 10m platform (semi-final 2am; final 7am)

· Australia face Belgium in the men's final (11am)

> Today's schedule in full
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