Can Rangers go all the way in the Europa League?

2008 must feel like a lifetime ago for the adoring

Can Rangers go all the way in the Europa League?

2008 must feel like a lifetime ago for the adoring fans of Glasgow Rangers. A lot has gone on behind those historic red-brick walls of the iconic Ibrox Stadium over the last 14 years or so, with the club forced to fight in the face of adversity to climb all the back to the top of Scottish football — thrown to the wolves by their fellow top-tier sides after entering administration and forced to rebuild from the third division.

It was a long, gruelling process — one that perhaps took longer than expected as the Gers found themselves in the Scottish Championship for a second year after failing to be promoted on their first attempt. Yet, redolent of their famous anthem ‘Follow Follow’, the passionate Rangers fans filled the 50,000-odd blue seats of Ibrox each and every week and trekked to places like Montrose and Stranraer, who attract average attendances in the 300s, to take over their small stadiums as well.

It has been a journey of milestones over the last decade, with Steven Gerrard, who some fans now claim has tarnished his success in Glasgow since he upped sticks and moved to Aston Villa earlier this season, the man to thank. The former Liverpool captain guided Rangers back to the group stages of the Europa League in 2018 and they have become a regular in the knockout stages since — reaching the round of 16 in successive seasons, a feat not to be overlooked.

Going back to why we mentioned 2008 at the beginning, that was the year Rangers defied all the football betting tips to reach the final of what was then called the UEFA Cup.

Managed by the legendary Walter Smith, who passed away late last year, the Scottish champions dropped down to the secondary competition after finishing behind Lyon and Barcelona in their Champions League group and went on a run not even the players could have seen coming — beating Panathinaikos, Werder Bremen, Sporting Lisbon and Fiorentina to reach the final in Manchester, where they came up short to Zenit Saint Petersburg at the home of Man City.

Each passing year that Rangers get the knockout phases of the competition, there is a slight hope that this generation of players can go on a run just like that one all those years ago. Moments like Nacho Novo’s winning penalty in the shootout against Florentina are shown time and again, but could this be the year that fresh memories are made and the Gers go all the way to final once again?

Many had dubbed this the strongest Europa League in years, with the likes of Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and so on all featuring in the draw for the knockout rounds, and when Rangers were faced with Dortmund in the last 32, it’s fair to see few expected Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men to be one of the names in the hat for the round of 16.

But Rangers defied the odds again, knocking down the ‘Yellow Wall’ with a 4-2 victory in Germany — and even then, they were still being written off with Marco Rose’s side tipped to put things right in Glasgow. That didn’t happen though, with a 2-2 draw at Ibrox seeing the Gers progress to the last 16 with a historic 6-4 win over Dortmund — one of the best results for a Scottish side in Europe in modern history!

Of all the times Rangers could have been paired with in the round of 16, they are drawn to face Red Star Belgrade — which would have been met with a sigh of relief from the Ibrox faithful after the emotional roller-coaster of Dortmund.

A 3-0 win over the Serbian side at Ibrox, with James Tavernier, Alfredo Morelos and Leon Balogun all finding the back of the net, has given them a strong foothold in the tie and many Rangers fans will believe, with a hint of caution, that they already have one foot in the last eight.

However, while they are dreaming of a trip to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in Seville for the final, that could be where this fairytale ends for the Gers. Unless they get another favourable draw, the likes of Barcelona, Lyon and even Sevilla will likely prove too strong for Van Bronckhorst’s side.

Going all the way seems unlikely, but Rangers can still be proud of this European run wherever it may come to an end. Scottish sides are often overlooked in the continent, with the Gers and Celtic often deemed as easy opposition, but the Ibrox side have proved this year, and in recent times, that they will be no pushover!