This is set to be a momentous occasion for hosts Royale Union, who embark upon their first-ever UEFA Champions League (UCL) qualifying clash. An impressive second-placed finish in the Belgian First Division last season booked their place in this third round encounter, though they’ll be playing this historic encounter at the home of domestic rivals OH Leuven as their 9400-capacity home venue doesn’t meet the required UEFA regulations.
Having scored just one goal across their last three competitive home matches (W1, D2) – which came in Saturday’s tight season opener against Charleroi (W 1-0) – perhaps a change of scenery might serve Royale Union well. Especially as they scored a combined nine goals at OH Leuven’s Den Dreef stadium across their last two visits.
Rangers kicked their domestic season off with a 2-1 win at Livingston, but last season’s memorable UEFA Europa League run may still be lingering fresh in the memory. The Glasgow side narrowly fell to a 4-5 defeat on penalties against Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEL final, but that journey all started after being eliminated at this stage of UCL qualifiers last season. Atoning for that is going to be one of the Scottish side’s priorities as they push to reach the group stage for the first time since 2010/11.
Rangers lost the first leg away from home in last season’s qualifier 2-1, which extended their winless UCL away run to 11 outings (D5, L6). Coming up against Belgian opposition could be key to bucking that trend though as they’ve lost just one of their previous ten clashes against such sides (W8, D1).
Players to watch: Dante Vanzeir scored eight of his 15 goals for Royale last season at home, and crucially all came in victories. James Tavernier scored Rangers’ winner at the weekend, and netted seven goals across the final nine matches of last season’s Europa League campaign.
Hot stat: Rangers have scored exactly one goal in six of their last nine away UCL matches.
Best Pick: Away Over 0.5 @ 1.3