Rangers sense history in the most unexpected European final in a decade

The Glasgow club can create history on Wednesday night in southern Spain

There’s a storm heading towards Seville. One way or another, Rangers fans will descend upon the south of Spain in droves and will be met by an Eintracht Frankfurt contingent that will likely match their number. Despite the warnings, over 100,000 supporters are expected to crowd the city’s picturesque streets and cobbled plazas ahead of tonight’s Europa League final. The lucky few will have received tickets for the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan out of the slender allocation offered by Uefa. The rest will pack into fan zones, the two sides separated by five kilometres and on either side of the Guadalquivir waterway. It will just be close enough to the Pizjuan to justify their pilgrimage.

This is not an occasion to be missed. It is the most unexpected European final in a decade, since Porto met Braga in 2011, and is arguably the biggest match in the histories of both Rangers and Eintracht Frankfurt. Villarreal’s victory over Manchester United last season aside, in recent years the Europa League has been routinely won by cast-offs from the Champions League, an underperforming member of the European super clubs, or Seville. This line-up breaks that pattern and is one that could not have been predicted two months ago, let alone at the start of the season.

The widening financial inequalities in European football was supposed to put the idea of gracing a European final out of reach for Rangers, who have become the first team from Scotland to play in a European showpiece since their last appearance in one in 2008. Eintracht finished in the bottom half of the Bundesliga this season but have outperformed top-four clubs in Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen, while eliminating Barcelona and ending West Ham’s run.

Eintracht have shown they have some of the most passionate supporters in Europe

Both clubs have instead been carried here by something bigger. While each step was met by the realisation that with the odds stacked against them, their journeys have also been fuelled by the inherent belief that they belong on nights like these. Both Rangers and Eintracht will carry themselves like European royalty when they arrive in Seville, but they will not take it for granted. It remains a generational opportunity. It is why Eintracht took 30,000 into the Nou Camp when they knocked out Barcelona. For Barca, a Europa League quarter-final meant ridicule and a sign of their decline. For Eintracht, it was an opportunity to grasp and a chance to rise.

Recommended



The same, in many ways, applied to West Ham on their run to the semi-finals and had it not been for Aaron Cresswell’s early red card in Germany we might have been set for an all-British affair. Those West Ham supporters who travelled in hope were certainly impressed by the atmosphere at the Waldstadion but the feedback Rangers fans have received on Eintracht from a football perspective has been less flattering. They believe the Bundesliga side are beatable and Rangers will head into the final with nothing to fear after knocking out Dortmund and Leipzig so far.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side have certainly proved plenty of people wrong since they were dismissed as “third rate” by the Germany legend Lothar Matthaus. Van Bronckhorst has done an excellent job since taking over from Steven Gerrard. His first match in charge was a must-win game against Sparta Prague in November. Powered on by Ibrox, Rangers secured their passage to the Europa League knockouts and although their campaign has been one of fits and starts, they have not looked back. A Europa League final would also eclipse Celtic’s achievement of reclaiming their Premiership title this season.

Van Bronckhorst can lead Rangers to their first European trophy in 50 years

Rangers will miss home advantage in Seville but in Van Bronckhorst on the sidelines they have a calming influence who has played in the biggest games and seen it all before. The Dutchman has shown tactical versatility, particularly in matching up with RB Leipzig’s 3-4-3 system in the semi-finals, and it will be required once more against a Eintracht side who also operate in that formation. Rangers are more open and less rigid under Van Bronckhorst than they were under Gerrard and once more big shifts will be required from the likes of Glen Kamara, Ryan Jack, John Lundstram and Calvin Bassey to close the spaces that appear.

Goals remain a concern and Rangers are once again hoping that striker Kemar Roofe will be able to return, with Alfredo Morelos out for the season. Their captain, James Tavernier, who is remarkably the leading scorer in this season’s Europa League from right back, carries their biggest threat and his battle with opposite wing back Filip Kostic, Eintracht’s hero in the Nou Camp, is set to be key.

Tavernier is the Europa League’s top scorer with seven goals this season

Recommended



It could be a historic evening for Rangers but the club are also desperate for it to pass without detracting incidents. The disturbances in Manchester that followed the 2008 Uefa Cup final against Zenit St Petersburg continue to cast a worried shadow on their trip to Seville, and Uefa have acted by opening the nearby La Cartuja stadium and hosting a giant screen for ticketless fans to watch the match. Those with Eintracht will have another area elsewhere, but there are also concerns after clashes between German fans and Real Betis and West Ham supporters earlier in the competition.

There is apprehension. Earlier this week, the former Rangers manager Graeme Souness appeared on social media looking like a stern head of sixth ahead of a trip to the science museum. “You are an ambassador for this club,” was his message for those going to Seville. “You must go there and behave.” It felt ominous. There should just be excitement. Something is building. A final thought lost to European football is here.

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

https://bigsportsnews.com/golf/pga-championship-2022-odds-scheffler-leads-the-way-while-woods-cant-be-written-off/

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

{{#verifyErrors}} {{message}} {{/verifyErrors}} {{^verifyErrors}} {{message}} {{/verifyErrors}}

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Source: Read Full Article