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“Whole of Europe would notice Rangers win”

14 Mar | opinion | BY George Fotev | MIN READ TIME |
“Whole of Europe would notice Rangers win”
Rangers twice led in Lisbon in last week's 2-2 first-leg draw with Benfica

Europa League: Rangers v Benfica
Venue: Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow Date: Thursday, 14 March Kick-off: 17:45 GMT
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland Extra/DAB/810MW, live text commentary of the BBC Sport website & app

Philippe Clement believes the whole of Europe would take notice if his Rangers beat Benfica at Ibrox on Thursday to make the Europa League quarter-finals.

Benfica twice came from a goal down to draw 2-2 with Rangers in Lisbon in last week’s first leg.

The Belgian has never managed a team to the last eight in European competition.

Benfica twice came from a goal down to draw 2-2 with Rangers in Lisbon in last week’s first leg.

“We need to above our level to qualify. Our fans are amazing, they give so much energy to the team. That can help to go above your level,” said Clement.

“We’re going to do everything to do that and with the support of the fans, that can give something extra. This game was sold out really fast. We could’ve sold the stadium two, three times. They’re really excited for this game.

“We will be creative. The players are up to that. We are realistic also. We’re not naive. We know that Benfica has a really talented squad with a lot of experience.

“They have World Cup winners in their team. They have a lot of young, really big talents, who will go for a lot of money after this season. Players like [Joao] Neves for example.

“We know it would be a really big surprise in all of Europe if we could take out Benfica, but we’re really hungry to do that.”

Team news

Rangers midfielder Todd Cantwell is fit to play, although Clement’s decision will be whether he starts or comes on from the bench.

The versatile Dujon Sterling misses out with the injury he picked up in Sunday’s Scottish Cup win over Hibs, while a late decision will be taken on the availability and fitness of winger Ross McCausland, who also limped off at Easter Road.

Oscar Cortes, Danilo, Kieran Dowell, Ryan Jack, Alex Lowry, Abdallah Sima and Scott Wright all remain sidelined.

Benfica will be without left-back Juan Bernat, who has been out of action since October.

Description

Description

Joao Neves, Angel di Maria and Rafa Silva were all rested for the weekend win over Estoril and are set to be recalled.

What they said

Rangers captain James Tavernier: “The fans really come with electric energy, get right behind the team. I expect a different game compared to Benfica [away]. These competitions always really suit us really well because it’s always an open game. The boys are just hungry to succeed.

“You’ve got to really outwork your opponent, really dial into the details and the tactical side of what you need to do into the game. It’s about who wants it more as well.”

Benfica manager Roger Schmidt: “I expect a game which is more open than last week. Now we start again at zero. There is big motivation for Rangers but also for us. We are still able to do something in three competitions.

“We have to show that we deserve to go to the quarter-finals. It would be a great achievement. We will be ready for extra-time and ready for penalties. We prepare for every situation.”

Match stats

All three of the meetings between Rangers and Benfica in Europe have ended level, while both teams having scored at least twice in all three fixtures (3-3 and 2-2 in the 2020-21 Europa League, and 2-2 in the first leg this season).

Benfica won their first ever away game in European competition in Scotland back in September 1960 against Heart of Midlothian in the European Cup (2-1), but are winless in five such matches since (D2 L3).

After beating Crvena Zvezda 4-2 on aggregate in 2021-22, Rangers are looking to qualify from consecutive ties in the round of 16 in the Europa League – this after previously failing to do so in any of their first three ties at this stage of the competition (eliminated in 2010-11, 2019-20 and 2020-21).

When failing to win the first leg at home in a two-legged knockout stage tie in European competition, Benfica have only managed to progress on one of the previous five occasions (v Ajax in the round of 16 in the Champions League in 2021-22 – 2-2 at home, 1-0 away).

In the first leg between these sides, Joao Neves completed the most passes (72), recovered possession the most times (12), completed the most dribbles (4) and won the most fouls (4) of any Benfica player in the match.

Rangers are unbeaten in their past nine Europa League homes games and have won eight and drawn three of their previous 11 home encounters with Portuguese opposition.

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George Fotev

George Fotev

Sports writer who is responsible for the Sportal's cricket, rugby, tennis and UFC betting content, as well as football betting tips.

George Fotev

George Fotev

Sports writer who is responsible for the Sportal's cricket, rugby, tennis and UFC betting content, as well as football betting tips.

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