MX23RW : Tuesday, March 9 04:41:21| >> :120:21611:21611:
Feb 25, 2021 at 5.55pm UK at Ibrox Stadium
RangersRangers
5-2
AntwerpRoyal Antwerp
Morelos (9'), Patterson (46'), Kent (55'), Barisic (79' pen.), Itten (90+2' pen.)
Balogun (37'), Kamara (71')
FT(HT: 1-1)
Refaelov (32'), Lamkel Ze (57')
Le Marchand (60'), Hongla (72')

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

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

After a dramatic seven-goal thriller in Belgium last week, this Thursday's Europa League second leg encounter between Rangers and Royal Antwerp has a lot to live up to, with the hosts having the edge as they look to progress to the last 16 for the second successive season.

Meanwhile Antwerp, who last travelled to Scotland in a European competition 32 years ago, are looking to cause an upset and advance to the next round for the first time since 1989.


Match preview

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard before the match in the Europa League on February 18, 2021© Reuters

Even though Rangers will be focused on this week's second-leg tie against Royal Antwerp, one eye remains firmly on the Scottish Premiership with the Gers now just seven points away from clinching the title, after rivals Celtic slipped up away at Ross County, losing 1-0 on Sunday evening.

The Gers, meanwhile, maintained their perfect home record as they comfortably defeated Dundee United 4-1 last weekend, winning their 15th league match at Ibrox this campaign.

Goals from Ianis Hagi, Ryan Kent, Joe Aribo and Alfredo Morelos confirmed the victory, while Marc McNulty scored a consolation goal for the visitors in the 86th minute, which is amazingly just the second league goal conceded by Rangers at Ibrox this season.

Steven Gerrard has admitted that he is finally allowing himself to dream about Rangers being crowned champions but insists he and his side must not get "carried away" and hopes they can now "finish the job".

Rangers were pushed all the way in their Europa League first-leg encounter with Royal Antwerp, with Borna Barisic converting his second penalty of the match in the 90th minute to snatch a dramatic 4-3 win in Belgium.

Last Thursday was a night full of ups and down and the Gers will not mind if the second leg matches such levels of excitement and drama, as long as they take advantage of the hard work they put in from the first leg and progress to the next round.

When taking an away victory back home for the second leg of a major European knockout tie, Rangers have progressed on each of the previous nine occasions, although the last time this happened was back in 1998 against Bayer Leverkusen in the UEFA Cup.

The Gers have won each of their previous four matches when hosting a Belgian side and another win in midweek would confirm their place in the draw for the last 16.

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

Despite losing the first leg last week, Royal Antwerp can be proud of their efforts against one of Europe's most in-form sides and still have a great chance of salvaging their last-32 tie and progressing to the next round.

Last season, Antwerp returned to a major European competition for the first time in a quarter of a century but were unable to progress from the Europa League qualifying stages.

However this campaign, The Great Old are through to the knockout phase having won four of their six group stage matches – including a surprise 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur – and are hoping that their fairytale story can continue.

Since advancing from the group stages, Antwerp have replaced Croatian manager Ivan Leko with legendary former Belgian international Franky Vercauteren, who was appointed as head coach in January.

Vercauteren had won six of his first seven matches in charge, but has since failed to win any of his last four games, drawing and losing twice, including the defeat to Rangers last week.

Antwerp, who have won two of their three Europa League away matches this campaign, last visited Scotland back in 1989, losing 3-2 to Dundee United but winning their UEFA Cup tie 6-3 on aggregate.

The Belgian side's last away game in the knockout stages of a major European competition saw them lose 5-2 to Newcastle United back in 1994 in the UEFA Cup, with Andy Cole scoring a hat-trick.

The Great Old have never won a European tie having lost the first leg at home, but will take belief into Thursday's clash and are set to provide another stern test for the hosts.

Rangers Europa League form: WDDWWW
Rangers form (all competitions): WWDWWW

Royal Antwerp Europa League form: WLWWLL
Royal Antwerp form (all competitions): WWLDLD


Team News

Rangers' James Tavernier in action with Royal Antwerp's Felipe Avenatti in the Europa League on February 18, 2021© Reuters

One downside from last week's victory for Rangers were the injuries sustained to captain James Tavernier and Kemar Roofe, with both players limping off before half time.

Centre-back Leon Balogun is set to fill in at right-back for the injured Tavernier, while Ryan Kent, who began the match against Antwerp on the bench, is set to start in place of Roofe.

Left-back Borna Barisic, who has scored twice and provided seven assists in the Europa League since the beginning of last season, is likely to start once again in defence.

Royal Antwerp have been handed a huge boost ahead of the trip to Ibrox as strikers Didier Lamkel Ze and Dieumerci Mbokani are set to return to the side on Thursday.

Lamkel Ze is back from suspension, while Mbokani could feature after over a month out with a calf injury.

Experienced defensive midfielder Faris Haroun is also back in contention to play, with the club's captain set to partner Martin Hongla in Vercauteren's midfield.

Antwerp will be without defender Abdoulaye Seck as he was sent off late in the game against Rangers, while third choice goalkeeper Ortwin De Wolf is set to start as both Jean Butez (ankle) and Alireza Beiranvand – who hobbled off against the Gers – are both ruled out injured.

Rangers possible starting lineup:
McGregor; Balogun, Goldson, Helander, Barisic; Kamara, Davies, Aribo; Hagi, Morelos, Kent

Royal Antwerp possible starting lineup:
De Wolf; de Laet, Gelin, Le Marchand; De Pauw, Hongla, Haroun, Lukaku; Gerkens, Refaelov; Lamkel Ze


SM words green background

We say: Rangers 2-1 Royal Antwerp

Royal Antwerp proved last week that they should not be underestimated heading into Thursday's match and with up to three key players back fit, the Belgians will travel to Ibrox confident that they can salvage a comeback.

However, Rangers have an impeccable home record which has seen many teams struggle to break them down this season. Even with the loss of James Tavernier and Kemar Roofe, the Gers still have enough quality and experience in their side to get the job done and progress to the last 16.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a home 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 Win:data


ID:436446:cQx:QQ:

How you voted: Rangers vs Antwerp

Rangers
85.3%
Draw
7.4%
Royal Antwerp
7.4%
204
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Rangers manager Steven Gerrard before the match in the Europa League on February 18, 2021
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