• MySTV

Europa League: Celtic and Rangers ready for group stage

Scotland's representatives get their Europa League campaigns under way on Thursday.

Scott Brown and James Tavernier have their eyes on the prize.
Scott Brown and James Tavernier have their eyes on the prize. SNS/Getty

The Europa League theme tune may not have the recognition, or the hum-ability of its Champions League equivalent but it's music to the ears of Celtic and Rangers fans.

A season of domestic battle may lie ahead but the sprinkling of continental glamour is something to savour as the nights draw in. The stars of Lazio and Porto will be coming to Glasgow and there will be the usual dramatic twists and turns we're used to whenever Scottish sides are pitted against foreign counterparts.

It all starts tonight with two matches that can raise and answer questions about the strengths of the top teams in the country and with Celtic in Rennes and Rangers hosting Feyenoord there are points to prove against capable opposition.

Both sides have once again come through an arduous campaign to reach the group stage. Celtic started the summer in the elite competition but bounced back from the disappointment of exiting at the hands of CFR Cluj to reach the Europa League in some style. Rangers won a battle of wills with Legia Warsaw thanks to a single, decisive, and late, goal in what was a clear example of their year-on-year improvement.

Now, with that drama consigned to a footnote in the story of their seasons, the Glasgow rivals embark on the next immediate challenge: three points on offer to start a journey to the knockout stage but also an opportunity to lay down a marker for the rest of the group games.

Celtic Park is set for more European nights.
Celtic Park is set for more European nights. SNS

Celtic start with arguably the most intriguing of their games. While Lazio is 'the glamour tie' and Cluj is 'the revenge game', Rennes is perhaps best described as 'the measure' for Celtic.

After the Cluj defeat, much of social media chat centred on whether Celtic were a Champions League club or a Europa League club. The simple answer would be that if you're a Champions League club then you don't have to ask, but the question draws a line amongst those below the top level that shouldn't really exist.

Rennes wouldn't be on anyone's list of Champions League-level clubs but last year they made a run to the last 16 of the secondary competition. They caught the eye in a 6-4 aggregate win over Real Betis and a 3-1 home beating of Arsenal. This season they already have a win over PSG ticked off as proof of potency.

So for Celtic, a real test awaits. In the wider picture, it's an opportunity to show that the Cluj setback was a blip, as performances before and after go some way to suggesting. But with Lazio firm favourites to top the group it's a battle to show who the second power in the section is.

Neil Lennon made a point of saying the French side have a style his team aren't used to facing. His Rennes counterpart Julien Stephan highlighted three Scottish internationals as examples of Celtic's technical quality, marking Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie and James Forrest as ones to watch. It's all set up for a fascinating encounter.

Steven Gerrard was in a confident mood ahead of tonight's game.
Steven Gerrard was in a confident mood ahead of tonight's game. SNS Group

Back in Glasgow, Rangers start with the visit of Feyenoord. Where Rennes have the danger without the glamour, the Rotterdam side have a well-established name but not the form or players that made them a fearsome side in years gone by.

With Rangers in pot four and Feyenoord among the third seeds, the match at Ibrox is theoretically the most straightforward of the tasks awaiting Steven Gerrard's players in Group G. Handed a formidable draw, with Porto and Young Boys making up the quartet, there are no easy games, though some carry more expectation than others.

Gerrard stated as much in his pre-match media conference, saying the home games carried extra weight for his side, but was also confident his squad was more prepared for European competition than last year.

https://stv.tv/sport/football/1440383-celtic-to-face-lazio-in-europa-league-group-stage/ | default

Having downed Legia, there's reason to believe Rangers can give a good account of themselves against Jaap Stam's Feyenoord. The bigger picture may have some Rangers fans thinking that breaking Celtic's stranglehold on domestic trophies is the priority, with Europe a (lucrative) bonus, but Gerrard was insistent in his belief he has the players to have "a good shot" at beating the odds and escaping the group.

That conviction isn't built on a projected series of results that includes a home defeat to the third seeds. Rangers have to take the game to the visitors and with Feyenoord's own ambitions dependent on accounting for the Scottish side before the dangers ahead, there's every chance opening night caginess gives way to something more cut-throat.

https://stv.tv/sport/football/1440384-rangers-drawn-against-porto-in-europa-league-group-stage/ | default

The start of the serious competition also gives the chance for evaluating the summer signings on the stage they were recruited for. Celtic's Boli Bolingoli, Christopher Jullien and Hatem Abd Elhamed will look to prove  they can provide the defensive bedrock for a run in the competition. And after slotting into the attack and providing a debut assist, Mohamed Elyounoussi could be making his case to become a key player.

Rangers fulfilled Gerrard's request to have two players seriously competing for every position this season and he will have big decisions to make when he plays his strongest hand on Thursday. Statement signing Ryan Kent is ruled out through injury, as is Jordan Jones, so Brandon Barker could get his chance to shine. Jamie Murphy's return to the first team could be escalated with two players out.

It's round one of six before Christmas but if there's one thing fans of Scottish clubs know it's that there's no room for error in Europe. By close of play on Thursday Scotland's representatives could be looking ahead with optimism to a series that can swell the coffers and raise the reputation but both know they won't get a second chance to make a first impression.

Download: The STV News app is Scotland's favourite and is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from Google Play. Download it today and continue to enjoy STV News wherever you are.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on its website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.


We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.


Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.


Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.



Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.