Standard Liege are the hosts for a tricky opening match, but hopes are high that the Ibrox side can carry on the European form that saw them progress through to last season’s round of 16, and repeat the current domestic form which has seen them open up a four point gap at the top of the SPFL Premiership, overcoming Old Firm rivals Celtic at the weekend.
But attention again turns to continental competition and there’s much anticipation over this game in Belgium – and Rangers have a score to settle.
Who: Standard Liege v Rangers
What: UEFA Europa League – Group D
Where: Stade Maurice Dufrasne, Liege
When: 5.55pm, Thursday October 22
How to watch
While Premier Sport picked up some of the earlier rounds, BT Sport has the rights the the UEFA Europa League and the group stages. The trip to Belgium is an early kick-off, beginning just before 6pm in the UK. BT Sport will show the game on BT Sport 3 with build-up from 5.30pm – Rapid Vienna v Arsenal is on BT Sport 2 at the same time. It’s a Scottish double-bill as Celtic v AC Milan follows the Rangers coverage on BT Sport 3. A monthly pass costs £25.
Who to Watch
Thomas Buffel, now at Zulte-Waregem, has already warned his former side to beware Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez on the Belgian side’s right-wing, but Nicolas Raskin, who scored the winner over Sporting Chaleroi two weeks ago, also looks capable with goals and assists from midfield.
The defence, marshalled by Cameroon international Collins Fai, has only given up nine goals in 12 games this season but even such a stringent record is eclipsed by Steven Gerrard’s side conceding four times in 14 games across all competitions.
Liege sit fourth in the Belgian Jupiler League, and head into the match on the back of a morale-boosting late draw with league leaders Club Brugge – who Les Rouches manager Phillipe Montanier lauded as ‘the best team in Belgium’. Liege are one point off the summit after nine games, and have only lost once this season – to Oud-Heverlee. Since then they’ve drawn twice and won twice.
The Belgians are ranked second seeds in the group, but entered the competition at the same qualifying stage Rangers. Bala Town and Vojvodina were beaten in the preliminaries while Rangers saw off Lincoln Red Imps and Willem II before Liege qualified with a play-off win over Hungarians Fehérvár and Rangers defeated Galatasaray.
It’s only the fourth time the Light Blues are heading to Belgium – but it will be the second meeting of the sides.
Liege are the only team from the country to beat Rangers – winning 4-1 at the Stade Schisson in 1962. Rangers won the return 2-0 at Ibrox but went out on aggregate.
Other meetings with Belgian sides have seen wins over Anderlecht 5-2 and 2-0 in 1959 and a home win over Club Brugge in the 1992-93 Champions League group stage coupled with a 1-1 draw in Belgium.