Europa League Final: Aribo, Balogun’s Rangers eyeing history in Seville
Rangers are the first Scottish club to find themselves 90 minutes away from a European trophy since they themselves reached the UEFA Cup final in the 2007/08 season.
After their first two group games, Rangers had yet to register a point or even score a goal. For them to make it all the way through to the final after such a poor start is a unique achievement in the history of the UEFA Cup and the Europa League.
When Rangers face Eintracht in Sevilla, it will be the third time that they have met Bundesliga opponents in this campaign, after Borussia Dortmund and Leipzig. Should they go on to win the final, they will have eliminated three teams from the same country in the knock-out stage, which again would make Europa League and UEFA Cup history – something that the Eagles will be keen to avoid.
Rangers began their European campaign this season in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League by virtue of winning the Scottish Premiership. They were beaten in both legs by Swedish side Malmö FF, which sent them into the play-offs for the UEFA Europa League, where they won 1-0 at home and drew 0-0 away to Alashkert Yerevan from Armenia, putting them through to the group stage.
Defeats at the hands of Olympique Lyonnais and Sparta Prague saw Rangers get off to the worst possible start, but they turned things around to finish second in the group.
In the play-offs that came between the group stage and the round of 16, Rangers faced their first major challenge in the form of Dortmund, who had come down from the Champions League, but the team from Glasgow took the spoils 6-4 on aggregate. Red Star Belgrade and SC Braga were then swept aside, before Rangers eliminated another side from the Champions League in Leipzig to book their ticket for the Europa League final.
Interestingly, Rangers have lost all of their last three away legs in the Europa League, with their strong home form getting them through to the final. Eintracht themselves proved that this can be good enough for European glory: in 1980, the Eagles lost in Mönchengladbach, Munich, Brno, Rotterdam and Bucharest but still lifted the UEFA Cup.
The Nigerian trio of Joe Aribo, Leon Balogun and Calvin Bassey have played huge parts in getting the Scottish to the brink of Euro glory and can be relied upon to finish the job in Seville.
Aribo has made 14 appearances for Rangers in the competition so far this term and has bagged three assists, with the two against SC Braga helping to get the team to the semifinal.
Balogun scored twice in 10 appearances in the competition while Calvin Bassey, the ever reliable defender started 11 of the 13 games played and bagged an assist to help Rangers secure a draw in the 2-2 scoreline at Ibrox in February after the Gers had achieved an incredible 4-2 win at Borussia Dortmund seven days earlier.