With tomorrow’s Old Firm looming large, it’s worth pausing and backtracking and formally reviewing the Europa League draw.
The draw, carried out on Friday, saw Rangers grouped with a very interesting clutch of clubs, in the form of Moussa Dembele’s Lyon, Sparta Praha (city rivals of our old ‘friends’), and Danish giants Brøndby.
Ibrox Noise will have a preview for you in a week or two from a Brøndby expert who knows infinitely more about Brian Laudrup’s old stomping ground than us dumb shmucks, but there are quite a few tales with this group of clubs.
Lyon, of course, has a tonne of subplots.
From Rangers’ staggering triumph in 2007 at the Stade Gerland (still one of our greatest ever European nights), to the follow up gubbing which announced Karim Benzema on the world stage, to the small fact ex-Celtic striker Dembele plies his trade there these days, the Lyon draw is a great one.
This was a very good club to get, opening up old stories of glory, and they’ll be no walkovers. Incidentally, Dembele’s record in France? 23 in 52 in season one, 24 in 46 in season two, but a crushingly awful 20/21 with just a single goal in an injury and covid-disrupted 16 appearances. Sadly for his opponents, his form is back this season, 3 in 4. 48 in 112 in France, he’s a world class striker and Rangers will have their work cut out to stop him. That said, his record in UCL is unimpressive for Lyon, just 3 goals in 16.
So this is one we look forward to.
Then there’s Praha. On initial draw a tonne of Bears, moron yours truly included, feared this was Slavia, and groaned in horror. Only on second glance did we all realise thankfully it was their city rivals. Now, we’re not sure how much nicer Sparta are and less racist than their neighbours, we don’t know if they backed up Slavia. But it’s certainly surreal to go back to Praha anyway. Glen Kamara probably won’t look forward to that one much.
Lastly, Brøndby. We aren’t experts in the Danes, but we will have that guest piece from our friends at Danish group Vilfortpark in due course, but suffice to say it is of course where Brian Laudrup started out and we look very much forward to their company when group A gets underway.
For your reference:
Lyon currently sit 6th in Ligue 1, Prague sit second in Cechia, and Brøndby sit a lowly 9th.