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RB Leipzig v Rangers: Van Bronckhorst has 'right gameplan' to cover loss of star strikers

Alfredo Morelos and Kemar Roofe have seven goals between them in this season's Europa League
Rangers strikers Alfredo Morelos and Kemar Roofe have seven goals between them in this season’s Europa League
Europa League semi-final first leg: RB Leipzig v Rangers
Venue: Red Bull Arena, Leipzig Date: Thursday, 28 April Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Listen to live commentary on Sportsound & follow live text updates on the BBC Sport website & app

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst insists he has the “right gameplan” to mitigate the loss of his two top scorers for Thursday’s seismic Europa League semi-final first leg.

Alfredo Morelos and Kemar Roofe both miss out through injury for the visit to RB Leipzig.

It leaves Fashion Sakala as Rangers’ only recognised striker as they target a first European final since 2008.

“It’s not a big decision,” said van Bronckhorst of his attacking set-up.

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“They are not available and I have made my plans after watching the opponent playing.

“I will choose the right gameplan and we need the players to perform well. We showed on Sunday [a 3-1 comeback win with 10 men at Motherwell] the players who are still in the team can perform. We need a big performance on Thursday.”

After finishing second to Lyon in the group stage, Rangers have dispatched Borussia Dortmund, Red Star Belgrade and Sporting Braga on a memorable run to the last four.

Van Bronckhorst, who succeeded Steven Gerrard as boss in November, urged to his side to “block all the pressure from outside” to focus on claiming another scalp against the Bundesliga side.

“Of course we have the belief,” said the Dutchman. “If you see the run we’ve had to the semi-final, it’s been very good.

“The confidence is there but everything we achieved in the past doesn’t count against Leipzig. They are a very strong, attacking team with a lot of pace up front.

“We have worked all together and I am very proud of the players. We are now in the final weeks of the season and will give everything we can to be successful in Europe.”

Team news

As well as Morelos and Roofe, midfielder Aaron Ramsey is absent for Rangers because of injury. The club are hopeful Roofe and Ramsey will be available for next Thursday’s second leg.

Ianis Hagi remains a long-term casualty, but Van Bronckhorst reported no fresh injury concerns from the win over Motherwell.

Leipzig have Slovenia midfielder Kevin Kampl, Hungary defender Willi Orban and French defender Mohamed Simakan all suspended after they each picked up two yellow cards in previous games.

What do we know about RB Leizpig?

Having finished Bundesliga runners-up to Bayern Munich last season under Julian Nagelsmann, who then departed for the champions, Leipzig were 11th when Jesse Marsch was sacked in December after just four months at the helm.

His successor Domenico Tedesco – assisted by former Celtic full-back Andreas Hinkel – has led the club back to the top four and they were unbeaten in 15 games across all competitions until losing at home to Union Berlin in the league on Sunday.

On the European front, Leipzig finished third behind Manchester City and Paris St-Germain in the Champions League group phase. That dropped them into the Europa League and they defeated Real Sociedad 5-3 on aggregate then Atalanta 3-1 to set up a meeting with Rangers.

It is a second European semi-final for Leipzig in their current guise, having been beaten 3-0 by PSG in a one-off Champions League last-four tie in Lisbon in 2020.

What did they say?

Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor: “Three-and-a-half years ago, I don’t think anybody thought we would qualify for the groups.

“And then each year we have progressed. It has been an unbelievable achievement from all the boys and staff. It has been a good run.

“We deserve to be here. It will be a big occasion for the club and the players and we just need to enjoy it.”

Leipzig head coach Domenico Tedesco: “I wasn’t shocked that Rangers knocked out Dortmund, but I was surprised they won 4-2 [in Germany]. They were 3-0 up and played really strong.

“But now, after seeing them a few times – against Braga, Dortmund, Red Star and also Celtic – there is no surprise any more because they have a good squad, good coach, and are very organised.

“We know Roofe will miss out but for us it makes no difference who plays there because they are all strong.”

Match stats

  • RB Leipzig and Rangers will face off for the first time in Europe. The last time the very first meeting between two sides in European competition came at the semi-final stage or later of a major competition was in 2019-20 – RB Leipzig vs Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League (SF) and Sevilla vs Inter in the Europa League (F).
  • Rangers have won just two of their last 24 matches in European competition away to German opposition (D9 L13), although one of those wins came at their last such attempt, defeating Borussia Dortmund in the play-offs in February.
  • RB Leipzig have reached their second major European semi-final within their first five seasons in European competition, having also reached this stage of the UEFA Champions League in 2019-20.
  • Rangers have reached the semi-final stage of a major European competition for the seventh time overall and for the first time since 2007-08, when they finished as runners-up to Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Cup. Rangers have now equalled Celtic (7) for the most semi-finals contested in major European competition among Scottish clubs.
  • RB Leipzig’s participation in this tie means that at least one team that has dropped down from the Champions League has reached the semi-finals of the Europa League in each season since 2015-16, though no such side has gone on to win the competition in any of the last three campaigns, with Atlético de Madrid the last to do so in 2017-18.
  • Rangers have lost their last two away matches in Europe – against Red Star Belgrade in the last 16 and Sporting Braga in the quarter-final. The Ibrox club haven’t lost three consecutive away matches in European competition in a single season since 2000-01, with the third game in that run coming against German opposition in Kaiserslautern.
  • RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku has won a penalty in each of his last three Europa League matches – despite not playing until the knockout phase this season, the Frenchman has won more penalties than any other player in the competition this campaign (3).
  • Rangers full-back James Tavernier has scored six goals in the UEFA Europa League this season – excluding qualifiers, this is the joint-most goals in a single season in Europe by a Rangers player, along with Alfredo Morelos (2019-20) and James Forrest (1964-65).
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