Rangers will continue their continental adventure when they play host to Red Star Belgrade for the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie on Thursday night.
The Scottish giants secured a memorable playoff victory against Borussia Dortmund in the previous round, while their Serbian counterparts finished top of their group.
After finishing second in Group A behind Lyon earlier this season, Rangers were drawn against Borussia Dortmund in the playoff round, a challenging two-legged tie in which the German giants were understandably the favourites to prevail.
However, the Glaswegian outfit produced an almighty upset when they claimed a thrilling 6-4 aggregate victory last month, including a memorable 4-2 first-leg triumph in Germany.
In the club’s 150th anniversary season, spirits are high within the Rangers camp as they embark on their third successive last-16 clash in the Europa League. However this time, they will be hoping to advance further in the competition, having lost to Bayer Leverkusen and Slavia Prague at this stage in the previous two seasons.
In fact, Rangers have only ever progressed from one of their eight last-16 ties in Europe’s second-most prestigious competition, eliminating Werder Bremen in the 2007-08 UEFA Cup, before going all the way to the final where they lost 2-0 against Zenit St Petersburg.
While 14 years have passed since they last reached a European final, 2022 marks 50 years since Rangers won their first and only European trophy, when they beat Dynamo Moscow 3-2 in the 1972 Cup Winners’ Cup final.
A seemingly favourable last-16 tie against Red Star now awaits Rangers, who will be familiar with their Serbian counterparts having previously faced them on seven occasions in European competition. The Gers have failed to win any of their three away fixtures against Red Star but they are unbeaten in their four home encounters, including three victories.
While Rangers have experienced a slight wobble in the Scottish Premiership, slipping three points behind bitter rivals Celtic at the top, they have enjoyed plenty of success at Ibrox, putting together a 19-game unbeaten run since losing to Lyon back in September. With a raucous crowd of over 50,000 behind them on Thursday night, Giovanni van Bronckhorst and co will be confident of success in the first leg.
Red Star Belgrade Radovan Pankov celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates in the Europa League on February 18, 2021© Reuters
For the first time in over 30 years, Serbian giants Red Star Belgrade will be competing in the last 16 of a European competition.
The 1990-91 European Cup winners managed to finish top of Group F, scraping through as group winners with only one point separating them from Braga in second and two ahead of Midtjylland in third.
Since losing to Midtjylland in early November, the Red-Whites are unbeaten in their last 16 matches across all competitions. Victories in each of their last six Serbian SuperLiga games have helped them close in on league leaders and city rivals Partizan, who are currently two points in front and seeking to end Red Star’s seven-year dominance at the summit.
Head coach Dejan Stankovic, who represented Inter Milan and Lazio in his playing days, will be hoping that his side can now carry their domestic form into the Europa League, as they bid to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 1978-79, a campaign in which they were beaten in the final by Borussia Monchengladbach.
Red Star travel to Glasgow having won only one of their last six away matches against Scottish opposition, with their only triumph coming against Hibernian in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup back in 1961. Three of their four visits to Ibrox have ended in defeat, including their most recent trip in August 2007 when they narrowly lost 1-0 in the first leg of their 2007-08 Champions League playoffs, before playing out a goalless draw in the reverse fixture.
The Belgrade outfit are unbeaten in three away games in the Europa League this season, winning once and drawing twice in the group stage, so they will be confident of frustrating the hosts in midweek and taking a positive result into the second leg.