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Explained: What Rangers and Celtic need to seal progress to Europa League knockout stages


Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers and Rangers manager Steven Gerrard.

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers and Rangers manager Steven Gerrard.

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers and Rangers manager Steven Gerrard.

Rangers and Celtic are both in with a real shot of qualifying for the knockout round of the Europa League with two group games left to play.

So just what do they need to make it out of their groups?

Rangers: Group G

Rangers currently sit third in the table, level on points with second-placed Spartak Moscow but behind the Russians on head-to-head record (that's how teams finishing on the same number of points are separated). Leaders Villarreal are just a point ahead on six and Rapid Vienna are only two adrift of top spot on four points. The fact that all four teams can qualify makes it all immensely complicated.

The Gers host first-placed Villarreal at Ibrox this evening before travelling to Rapid Vienna for the final group game on December 13.

Here are four key scenarios to bear in mind:

1. Four points across Rangers' last two games, however they were to get them, would be enough to see Steven Gerrard's side safely through.

2. Rangers could even go through with a win tonight and a defeat in Vienna but they need other results to go their way. If Rangers could keep their defeat in Vienna to a single goal, it would majorly boost their chances by giving them the advantage over Rapid on the H2H records.

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3. A defeat at Ibrox tonight could totally end Rangers' chances of making it through. That would be the case if Spartak were to defeat Rapid Vienna in Russia this evening. There is still the possibility, however, that a defeat tonight and a win in Vienna would be enough to see the Gers through.

4. It is possible that two draws would be enough for Rangers. That would be the case in the following scenarios: if Spartak win BOTH of their last two games, OR if Spartak draw in Vienna AND do NOT draw in Villarreal.

Celtic: Group B

Things are much more straight forward for Celtic. They're currently level on points with Red Bull Leipzig - their challengers for progression. Salzburg lead the group on 12 points with RBL and the Hoops on six and Rosenborg on zero. Celtic are currently behind RBL on H2H record (as above, that's how teams finishing on the same number of points are separated).

Celtic travel to Rosenborg this evening and then host Salzburg in their final game of the group.

So here's the situation for Brendan Rodgers' side:

1. As Celtic have already played Leipzig twice, they've already lost the H2H battle and so now simply MUST finish on more points than their rivals to progress, barring one caveat.

2. What's that? Well, glad you ask. If Celtic AND Leipzig were both to win their final two matches, it would in effect trigger a three-team mini-league at the top with results against Rosenborg discounted. It would go down, then, to goal difference without counting the matches versus the Norwegians. Those goal differences currently sit at Salzburg +3, Leipzig zero and Celtic -3 so the Hoops have some catching up to do.

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