Royal Antwerp vs Rangers: Strong defence is key to success for Scots in Belgium

Rangers are the last Scottish team standing in the Europa League and Betfair's Frankie Monkhouse expects them to get a result in Belgium...

Bears back in business

Rangers stand as Scotland's last remaining representative in the Europa League. The competition enters the knockout stages with Round of 32 games played on Thursday. Gers travel to Belgium where they'll meet Royal Antwerp in the first leg following Saturday's home win over Kilmarnock.

Confidence is high in the away dressing room after Steven Gerrard's troops progressed as unbeaten Group D winners. Four wins and two draws saw Rangers end two points ahead of Benfica and were 10 better than Standard Liege. Antwerp posted second in Group J a point behind Tottenham.

Green Old out of the title race

The Green Old handled themselves well in what was a competitive pool, ending one point behind Spurs, two better than third-placed LASK. A record of four wins against two defeats was enough to see Antwerp sneak through but they did lose their most recent start at this level, beaten 2-0 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in December.

Domestically, Franky Vercauteren's side are in the running for a top-two finish and spot in the Champions League qualifiers next season but are well off the pace set by champions in-waiting Club Bruges.

Despite failing to win 13 of their first 27 First Division A Table games, Antwerp were able to piece together an eye-catching winning run. A 2-1 away win over Beerschot completed three wins on the bounce but it's worth noting they conceded three goals during that run before drawing with Standard Liege on Sunday.

Countdown to 55 is on

Rangers have been remarkable this season under the guidance of Gerrard. As well as topping a tricky Europa League pool after coming through several qualifiers and being drawn from pot four they have been dominant in Scotland. Gers enjoy a sizeable points advantage over Celtic, wrecking their rivals' hopes of winning 10-in-a-row while bagging a historic 55th league title for themselves.

Bears fans will be hoping to see their team at least match the achievements of last season when making it to the Round of 16 in this competition. They were eventually eliminated by German Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, losing 4-1 on aggregate but the current squad is stronger than they were last term.

The visitors arrive in Belgium on the back of a good performance against a stubborn Killie at Ibrox on Saturday and remain unbeaten in the league. Gerrard will rotate his team and is likely to bring back the likes of Glenn Kamara, Kemar Roofe and Europa League goal machine Alfredo Morelos, the latter two suspended from action in Scotland.

A winnable game for Gers

Royal Antwerp understand their best chance of getting through to the next round and continuing their Europa League adventure comes from making home advantage count. The Belgians have been in decent form and can carry their scoring ways into this match but must improve defensively. The home win is 4.0 on the Betfair Exchange.

When the draw was made many Rangers fans believed their team dodged a bullet. There were certainly bigger names in the hat. Gerrard will also view this as a tie his men can get through and perhaps even a game they should be winning. Rangers are 2.0 on the Betfair Exchange to grab a first-leg lead with the draw 3.8.

Visitors will build off a strong backline

Antwerp's defence has looked fragile in recent league games, but they have made up for that in attack. Rangers defence has been solid all season and they have the strikers to hurt any team at this level. As we've seen from Gerrard away from home in recent campaigns, he'll build everything off a solid backline and hope to hit on the counter-attack.

Taking no in the both teams to score is worth a second look at 2.18 but we prefer to add under 2.5 goals in this game at 1.99 to our bets. Morelos first goal is 5.3 and that's our bet. He has a remarkable scoring record in this competition and arrives fully rested.



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