Royal Antwerp suffer big blow just days before crunch Europa League tie vs Rangers
Photo by Jeroen Meuwsen Fotografie/BSR Agency/Getty Images

Rangers' opponents Royal Antwerp suffer blow ahead of Europa League clash

Royal Antwerp suffered a blow on Sunday as they dropped points away at Standard Liege just days before their Europa League Round of 32 first-leg clash against Rangers.

Antwerp’s domestic form has improved since the appointment of Franky Vercauteren as manager in early January, but a three-match winning streak in the league was brought to an end at the weekend.

Franky Vercauteren has overseen an improvement in results at Royal Antwerp. (Photo by Jeroen Meuwsen Fotografie/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

They drew 1-1 with Standard, a team Rangers defeated twice in the Europa League group stages, in Liege on Sunday afternoon.

Mehdi Carcela gave the hosts the lead from the penalty spot in the 8th minute and Nill de Pauw equalised for Antwerp 20 minutes later, but despite getting off more shots on goal, the visitors were unable to kick on to victory in the second half.

The Great Old‘s chances of winning the Belgian Pro League now look very slim, given that they trail Club Brugge by 13 points despite having played a game more.

The result will dent Antwerp’s confidence ahead of the visit of Rangers, who secured a relatively comfortable 1-0 home win over Kilmarnock on Sunday.

Royal Antwerp suffered a blow to their fading title hopes with a draw against Standard Liege just days before they host Rangers.  (Photo by YORICK JANSENS/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Given how well Rangers have performed in Europe over the past few seasons, they go into Thursday’s first leg at the Bosuilstadion as firm favourites, even though they’ve found goals hard to come by in recent weeks.

Steven Gerrard’s team defeated Braga of Portugal 4-2 on aggregate at this point in last season’s competition before being knocked out by Bayer Leverkusen at the Last 16 stage.

Antwerp did strengthen defensively during the winter window, though, with the loan signing of a Premier League centre-back.

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