Revealed: the select group Rangers would join with Europa League qualification

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Rangers face FC Ufa on Thursday night in their quest to reach the Europa League group stages with a 1-0 advantage from the first-leg at Ibrox.

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Rangers defeated FC Ufa 1-0 in the first-leg of the Europa League play-off round. Picture: SNS/Alan Harvey

Rangers defeated FC Ufa 1-0 in the first-leg of the Europa League play-off round. Picture: SNS/Alan Harvey

Having started in the first qualifying round, Steven Gerrard’s men have progressed through three ties and are 90 minutes - possibly extra-time and penalties as well - away from reaching the group stage.

The Ibrox side saw off Macedonia’s Shkupi in the first round before defeating NK Osijek of Croatia and Slovenians Maribor to set up the tie with Russian side Ufa.

Rangers have taken a slender one goal advantage to Russia, thanks to Connor Goldson’s first-leg header.

If they record a positive result they will become only the ninth team to qualify from the group stages having started in the first round of qualifying since the competition’s rebranding from the Uefa Cup in 2009.

No team managed the feat in the first two years of the Europa League. Fulham were the first team to achieve it in 2011 having entered the first round of qualifiers due to the fair play award.

The following year Dutch side Twente and Norway’s Rosenborg reached the group stages from the first qualifying round.

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The teams to have completed the feat:

• Fulham - 2011/2012

• Rosenborg - 2012/2013 & 2015/2016

• Twente - 2012/2013

• Tromso - 2013/2014

• Gabala - 2015/2016 & 2016/2017

• Maccabi Tel Aviv - 2016/2017 & 2017/2018

• KF Skënderbeu Korçë - 2017/2018

• Red Star Belgrade - 2017/2018

Rangers are not the only side who could achieve it on Thursday evening. They will definitely be joined by one other team who entered the same stage with Norway’s Sarpsborg 08 facing Maccabi Tel Aviv, both teams having already progressed through three ties to reach the play-off round.

Copenhagen, Molde, Trenčín, Apollon Limassol and Partizan all started at in the same round as Rangers and have face varying difficulties in making the final step to the group stages.

Reaching the group stages from entering the first qualifying round is becoming more common. It has happened 11 times so far and that will increase to anywhere between 12 and 18 after Thursday’s games.

Yet it should not take anything away from the achievement. Since the start of the Europa League in the 2009/2010 season there have been 768 entrants to the first qualifying round.

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