RANGERS return to European action after coming agonisingly close to a famous Europa League success.
The Gers were beaten by Eintracht Frankfurt on penalties in Seville after a brilliant run to the final.
And that defeat means they must now negotiate qualifying to enjoy Champions League football this season, as Celtic won the Scottish Premiership.
First up, they face an unpredictable tie with Belgian runners-up Union Saint-Gilloise.
The Brussels-based side finished in second position in the Jupiler Pro League, just a year after returning to the top flight for the first time in 49 years.
And they have named two English players in their starting line-up – former Accrington Stanley centre-back Ross Sykes and ex-Portsmouth defender Christian Burgess.
Should the Gers win, they will face an extremely tough tie in the play-off round against either PSV Eindhoven or Monaco.
- Kick off time: 7.45pm
- TV channel: Premier Sports 1
- Live stream: Premier Player
- Union Saint Gilloise XI: Moris; Sykes, Burges, Van Der Heyden, Nieuwkoop, Lynen, Teuma, Amani, Lapoussin, Adingra, Vanzeir.
- Rangers XI: McLaughlin; Tavernier, Goldson, Sands, Barisic, Lundstram, Kamara, Jack, Tillman, Matondo, Colak.
Union aware of test
USG boss Karel Geraerts was full of praise for the opposition in his pre-match press conference:
We will face a big team, with big players, with a great coach.
Karel Geraerts, USG boss
Just under 15 minutes to go…
Rangers with tough draw ahead
Should the Scottish giants win over the two legs, van Bronckhorst’s men will face a very tricky task against the winners of PSV Eindhoven vs Monaco who also play this evening.
Stage is set
Kick-off is just 30 minutes away!
Goldson hopeful of Champions League return
Rangers defender Connor Goldson spoke in the week about the competition and the strength of the squad:
It think it’s the pinnacle of football and the place where everywhere wants to play. But that wasn’t just the reason I signed my new contract. Champions League football has been part of the agenda for the past few years… I think the players we have brought in over the summer, when we play 11 v 11 in training it’s by far the strongest 22 players since I have been involved and we will need it for the season ahead.
Connor Goldson, Rangers defender
Rangers are in the building
The Gers players check out the pitch in the lead up to kick-off.
Sands big moment
Rangers defender James Sands is in from the start today alongside Connor Goldston.
The American struggled for regular minutes last season. But in the absence of John Souttar, he has a chance to show fans what they’ve been missing.
Boone, Dony, El Azzouzi, Francois, Huygevelde, Ilyes, Imbrechts, Machida, Pirard, Puertas
We have confirmation of USG boss Karel Geraert’s team to face Rangers:
Morris, Sykes, Burgess, Van Der Heyden, Nieuwkoop, Lynen, Teuma, Amani, Lapoussin, Adingra, Vanzeir
McLaughlin gets the nod
Much debate has surrounded who should be Rangers first choice goalkeeper with Alan McGregor recently adding a year to his contract.
But Bronckhorst has given Jon McLaughlin the number 1 spot for this evening’s tie, similar to how he did for the Scottish Cup final.
A sign of things to come?
Much to fans’ disappointment, Ryan Kent won’t feature for Rangers this evening after picking up an ankle injury.
However, boss Giovanni Van Bronckhorst stated that the winger could return to the side this weekend.
On the Gers bench
McGregor, Mccrorie, Ridvan, Davies, King, Devine, Davis, Lawrence, Arfield, Wright, Fashion Jr
The team-sheet is in. Here’s the lineup for the visitors.
Mclaughlin, Tavernier, Goldson, Sands, Barisic, Lundstram, Kamara, Jack, Tillman, Matondo, Colak
Change of scene
The match has been moved from Union Saint-Gilloise’s regular home ground, which does not meet Uefa standards. Instead, the contest will be played in the Den Dreef Stadium in Leuven.
The hosts will hope that the change in location can mark a change in goalscoring form having netted just once in their last three matches at the Stade Joseph Marien.
Especially considering they have scored a combination of nine goals in their previous two visits here.
Good evening from Brussels
Welcome to SunSport’s live coverage of this evening’s Champions League qualification clash between Union Saint-Gilloise and Rangers.
Today marks the first ever taste of Champions League football for the hosts who were runners-up in the Belgian first tier last season.
Rangers also finished second in the Scottish Premiership alongside a fantastic Europa League run which saw the Gers lose out on penalties to Eintracht Frankfurt in the final.
This is the first ever meeting between the two sides and we will bring you team news shortly as we build up to kick-off.