Who could Rangers be paired with in Friday’s Europa League last-16 draw?

Kemar Roofe celebrates after scoring for Rangers against Real Betis
Kemar Roofe’s goal sent Rangers through to the Europa League last 16

Two months on from a momentous win in Spain, Rangers will soon find out who they face in the Europa League last 16.

By finishing top of their group with a 3-2 victory against Real Betis, Rangers will avoid fellow seeded sides Atalanta, Bayer Leverkusen, Brighton, Liverpool, Slavia Prague, Villarreal and Conference League winners West Ham – at least in this round.

So, with the draw taking place in Nyon at 11:00 GMT on Friday, who could Philippe Clement’s side land in their next European engagement?

Heavyweights & familiar foes

AC Milan, Roma and a team Rangers knocked out of European competition twice between 2008 and 2011, Sporting, are the biggest names on the other side of the draw.

Milan inflicted a 6-1 European Cup aggregate defeat over Rangers in 1957 but since then have only played the Ibrox side in friendly matches.

Walter Smith’s Uefa Cup finalists beat Sporting 2-0 on aggregate in 2008 and on away goals in a 2011 Europa League tie.

Benfica, Freiburg, Marseille, Qarabag and Sparta Prague are the other potential opponents awaiting Clement’s men.

Rangers have recent form against Benfica and Sparta while Marseille will invoke memories of two early 1990s matches enjoyed by Ibrox supporters.

James Tavernier playing for Rangers against Feyenoord in 2019
Rangers beat Feyenoord 1-0 at Ibrox in 2019

Clement’s team beat Sparta 2-1 in the group stage after a goalless draw in Prague earlier in the campaign. Rangers also defeated the Czechs under Giovanni van Bronckhorst in 2021.

Rangers and Benfica played out two highly entertaining draws in the 2020 Europa League group stage – 3-3 in Lisbon and 2-2 in Glasgow.

Smith’s Rangers drew twice with Marseille in the Ibrox club’s first Champions League group campaign of 1992-93.

The farthest potential opponent

Qarabag likely represent an opponent Rangers would prefer to avoid. Situated more than 4,000km from Glasgow, the Azerbaijan side pulled off a 6-5 aggregate win over Braga after two high scoring matches.

Gurban Gurbanov’s side are current domestic champions and well clear at the top of the division as they seek a third successive title.

With Brazilians Matheus Silva, Julio Romao and Juninho, Frenchmen Abdellah Zoubir, Adama Diakhaby and Hamidou Keyta and players from Albania, Algeria, Cape Verde, Georgia, Montenegro and Russia, Gurbanov has a cosmopolitan squad at his disposal.

Like Qarabag, Rangers have also never played Freiburg nor Roma in a competitive game.

Whoever Rangers face, they will be in action on 7 and 14 March.

Rangers

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