Rangers: Set pieces, academy, key players, stadium and an ex-Celtic star - Everything fans need to know about FC Midtjylland from a Danish journalist

Rangers face FC Midtjylland in Denmark this evening as they look to reach the play-off stages of the Europa League.

FC Midtjylland won the cup last season.

Read More

Read More
Rangers 'boot out transfer approach' as English Championship side well short of ...

The Ibrox side's Danish opponents are a curious case. Founded in 1999 following a merger between Herning Fremad and Ikast FS, they have made swift progress, winning two league titles and a cup in recent years, while also being regular qualifiers for European competition.

Rangers: Get the latest team news, match previews and reports

Rangers: Get the latest team news, match previews and reports

However, it is the way in which they have achieved the success which has allowed the club to make a name for itself.

FC Midtjylland won the cup last season.

In 2014 they were taken over by Matthew Benham, owner of Brentford. Since then analytics, set pieces, specialist coaching and youth development have been key. Some of these aspects they do better than anyone else.

Recently, as Jordan Campbell writes for The Athletic, goals from set piece have amounted to nearly 40 per cent of their total. They are "set piece kings".

But they are also more on that.

Danish journalist Mikael Blond gives us the rundown FC Midtjylland.

Former Celtic ace Erik Sviatchenko will likely line up for the Danes.

The Academy

Amongst other things they founded an academy in Nigeria that has been quite successful, and the academy in Denmark has also produced a lot of good players - Winston Reid, Simon Kjær, Jonas Lössl and Pione Sisto.

Joachim Andersen has just become the most expensive player Lyon have ever bought - €24million - has been at the academy, but did not get his debut for the first team.

FCM have always had big ambitions and has been very outspoken out these. At the same time they have been quite successful, and this makes them quite unpopular amongst fans from other clubs.

The newest ambition is to create a winner of Ballon d'Or. They are getting some stick for that one.

Success

Talent is a main factor. Selling players for great amounts has been a key factor. Alexander Sörloth to Crystal Palace, Bubacarr Sanneh to Anderlecht, Rasmus Nissen to Ajax, Pione Sisto to Celta Vigo, Simon Kjær to Palermo, Winston Reid to West Ham.

They are very open about this strategy. Play at around 100 game for FC Midtjylland and get sold to a big European club. This attracts a lot of talented players, because they can see, that the club delivers on their promises.

Set piece kings?

Set pieces have been a part of the style for many years, but they have had better set pieces-specialists than right now.

They have for the last couple of years tried and are still trying to develop their game in open play, but set pieces will always be an important part of their game.

The owner

Matthew Benham is viewed as the quiet owner that does not say much and almost never gives interviews. Rasmus Ankersen, chairman of FC Midtjylland and director of sports in Brentford, and the FC Midtjylland director Claus Steinlein are doing all the talking, and they are the ones who draw the profile of the club.

Some of the ideas come from Smartodds/Benham no doubt, but everybody seems to be on the same page, and there is very rarely problems outside the field.

The fans and the ground

It is a small ground with 10-11,000 seats and the atmosphere can get quite intense. It is not the biggest or most vocal fan base in Denmark, but this game is rated very highly for the club and fans, so I expect a good atmosphere.

Herning is a pretty small town with 50-60.000 people, and the stadium is located a few miles from downtown, but the Rangers fans will probably have a good time before the game. There are a few British style bars and pubs in Herning.

The tie

FC Midtjylland consider Rangers to be the favourites for the tie, ut is is considered to be fairly even.

There is some pressure on FC Midtjylland. They have made it no secret that the Europa League is very important for the club to take the next step. They have only had one group stage in Europa League, and the last three years in a row they lost in the playoffs against teams that they really should have done better against - Osmanlispor, Apollon Limassol and Malmö FF.

Key players

The back three with Erik Sviatchenko, Alexander Scholz and the younger Rasmus Nicolaisen and goalkeeper Jesper Hansen is the strongest part of the team right now.

In midfield and attack the team is trying to find itself after losing some key players. Offensively the team lacks rhythm.

Left wing-back Marc Dal Hende and top scorer Paul Onuachu are still at the club, but they are not playing as they are expected to be sold this summer. Also the 36 year old captain Jakob Poulsen is benched, because the coach wants to try something else.

This leaves 21 year old Brazilian Evander with a lot of responsibility offensively, and so far he is pulling it off in the Danish Superliga. But the two games against Rangers will be a big test for him. He is being launched as the star player, and he needs to preform in these games.

Norwegian forward Gustav Wikheim is another key player. He can dribble and create things, but he needs to score more goals and make more assists.

New striker Sory Kaba is the clubs most expensive player ever - €3m - but he got back late from African Cup of Nations and has not started a game yet.

The manager

The head coach is Kenneth Andersen. He got promoted to head coach in October, when Jess Thorup left for Belgian club Gent.

Andersen is a club man. He has been working at the club since 2004 in different roles. He had a successful spell as the club's U19 coach winning both U19 championships and having a great run in UEFA Youth League before getting promoted.

He has not really changed a lot so far and he is considered to be somewhat quiet and not the most charismatic coach or leader.

The assistant Kristian Bak Bach does most of the yelling and is a lot more vocal. But Kenneth Andersen is with doubt respected very much for his knowledge. He just needs to have a chance to step out of the shadows and these game against Rangers is that chance for him.

Erik Sviatchenko

Erik has been solid. He has been a part of a tight defence. He is the leader and will probably be captain against Rangers if Poulsen is benched. But he does have competition from Alexander Scholz at being the best and most important player in the back line.

I think Erik expected to go home to FC Midtjylland, be the star player for six, 12 or 18 months and then go on to a club on the same level as Celtic or even higher as there was interest from the Premier League. He has not done that, but he stills looks to be both motivated and close to the top of his game.

There has been a little talk about a Turkish club, but right now is does not seem that he is going anywhere.

*Mikael Blond is a journalist for bold.dk in Denmark and can be followed on Twitter.