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Rangers ready to face biggest European game in 14 years

Giovanni van Bronckhorst's side face RB Leipzig in the Europa League semi-final second leg.

Rangers take on RB Leipzig in club’s biggest European night since 2008 SNS Group
A sell-out crowd will cheer Rangers on at Ibrox.

Rangers face their biggest European game in 14 years on Thursday night, when the Scottish champions attempt to reach the Europa League final.

After losing the first leg of the semi-final 1-0 to RB Leipzig last week, Rangers need to better that result at Ibrox to set up a date with West Ham or Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville later this month.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst and his players can look back on some memorable nights in the competition so far, and those games can raise confidence for what will be a tough task even in front of their home crowd.

Having seen off Borussia Dortmund, Red Star Belgrade and Braga already in the knockout stages, the squad will have to score at least once against a team that’s proven its mettle in the Bundesliga and Champions League in recent years.

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After a disciplined defensive performance, manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst has already promised his team will be on the front foot in what looks set to be a dramatic night at Ibrox.

Closer and closer

The Rangers manager enjoyed a decorated playing career, winning leagues and cups in Scotland, England and Spain as well as reaching the World Cup final with Netherlands.

He knows the effort needed to reach major finals and will be telling his players that a notable achievement is within touching distance.

“You have goals in your career as a player and as a coach,” van Bronckhorst said at his pre-match media conference. “You want to achieve great things and you dream of coaching teams in finals.

“You have that as a player, you have that as a coach and that gives you the drive to keep going. We are one step away from reaching the final, so we are getting closer and closer.

“Our European campaign this year has been great and we want to make sure we extend that to the final.”

While brushing off what it would mean for him personally, the Dutchman said it would be huge for the club to beat Leipzig and march on to Seville.

“There are not many times that the team has played in a final in Europe, so hopefully we’ll be joining a very elite group,” he said. “That’s all that matters. We are all here to bring success and bring trophies to this beautiful club. That’s always my main target.”

Formidable opponents

Van Bronckhorst has spoken in previous rounds about how much he has learned from the first leg of knockout ties and the effect on his game plan for the return match.

RB Leipzig showed their patience and their attacking threat to break down a stubborn Rangers back line last time, but the Ibrox side will now be the ones who need to find a way to score against one of the best defences in Germany.

“We played against them just last week so I have a better view on their players in terms of their qualities and their strengths as well as their weaknesses,” the Rangers boss said.

“We just have to prepare for a really tough game against a really good opponent. We both want to reach the final, but, of course, I am the Rangers manager and I will be doing everything I can to be in the final in Seville.”

‘Make Jimmy proud’

Van Bronckhorst also said that Rangers had extra motivation to win after the sudden death of club kitman Jimmy Bell this week. The 69-year-old was a lifelong fan who had been the team coach driver and then head of kit during more than 30 years’ work for the club.

Jimmy Bell and Giovanni van Bronckhorst.SNS Group
Jimmy Bell and Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

Bell’s death was a shock to all the players and staff, with van Bronckhorst revealing that very little training had taken place after the news broke on Tuesday. But the Rangers manager said the players would aim to deliver a performance that would make Bell proud.

“It was a really big game already,” he said. “But we all very determined to go out and give everything we can to make everyone proud and especially make Jimmy proud.”

The view from RB Leipzig

RB Leipzig manager Domenico Tedesco is aiming to take his team to the final.  (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)SNS Group
RB Leipzig manager Domenico Tedesco is aiming to take his team to the final. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

RB Leipzig manager Domenico Tedesco believes his side are going to need to be at their best to complete the job in Glasgow.

The coach saw his side frustrated for long spells in the first leg and thinks Rangers may even start cautiously in the return, but says his side can look to exploit gaps when they see them.

“We’re leading 1-0 in the tie, but I’m expecting us to need more goals,” he said. “Rangers will apply pressure – maybe not from the first minute, but at some point. So goals are always nice to have.

“We did a good job in the first leg. Rangers were sitting deep. We’re hoping for more space. If we do, we’ll be more dangerous.”

No regrets

Rangers captain James Tavernier has experienced plenty of big nights as the team has built a strong reputation in the competition over the last few years and is determined to see his team go a step further.

He emphasised the effect a sell-out crowd at Ibrox could have, and urged the players to seize the opportunity and leave nothing out as they push for victory.

“There will maybe be a little bit of nerves, but we are playing at home in front of 50,000 fans,” he said.

“It’s another good team being put in front of us. Another team of 11 players.

“The boys will soak it up. We know the fans will be right behind us. That’s what we want and that’s what we’ll need.

“All we can do is give it our best, give it our all and leave everything on that pitch to have no regrets. If we do that, then we have every fighting chance to get into a final.

“We all have the same goal. We all want to be playing in Seville. We as players obviously want to make the club and the fans proud.”

90 minutes of drama… and more?

With the away goals rule now a thing of the past, Rangers’ task is simple.

A win by more than one goal would put them in the final. A win by just one goal forces extra time and the possibility of a nerve-shredding penalty shoot-out.

A draw or defeat ends what’s been a long journey in the competition at the final hurdle.

Action at Ibrox starts at 8pm and you can follow the build-up on our live blog at sport.stv.tv