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Gerrard: “Big result” to come back twice at Villarreal

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Steven Gerrard remains unbeaten as a manager in Europe after his toughest test yet.

The Rangers boss watched his team go down 1-0 to Villarreal after less than a minute of their Europa League group stage debut, but ended up collecting a pair of equalizers and an impressive 2-2 draw in Spain.

[ MORE: PAOK 0-1 Chelsea ]

“It’s a big result and that’s always the way, my experience in Europe, you have to come away and get something,” Gerrard said on BT Sport.

“Obviously we came here to try and win the game and we nearly did through Scott Arfield at the end. We nearly lost it as well. They pushed, which is understandable but it’s a big point for us. Now we’ve got a home game and if we can take maximum points it’s a terrific start to the group.”

Adversity was there for Rangers, from Carlos Bacca’s first minute marker to conceding a second goal two minutes after Scott Arfield made it 1-1. But the Glaswegian side answered the ball through Kyle Lafferty.

Playmaker Daniel Candeias has plenty of praise for Gerrard. From Rangers.co.uk:

“When we finished the first half, the gaffer said in the dressing room to believe in ourselves and get a great result,” Candeias said. “I know we didn’t win, but a draw is a good result for us.”

Rangers will host Rapid Vienna on Oct. 4 in their second Group G match. Rapid beat Spartak Moscow 2-0 on Thursday.

Europa League preview: Arsenal, Chelsea debut; Red Bull Derby (of sorts)

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The Europa League group stage begins Thursday, with two London giants taking part in a relatively unfamiliar competition.

[ MORE: Full Europa League schedule ]

Both Arsenal and Chelsea have played in the tournament finals in recent years, but for the most part are Champions League mainstays.

This season, however, it’s the UEL leading one to Greece and the other to a visit from a Ukrainian side.

Both are involved in our five matches to monitor amongst the 48-team field on Day 1.

5 (tie). Villarreal vs. Rangers / Celtic vs. Rosenborg

The Old Firm rivals with plenty to prove kick off their group stages on Wednesday, in turn saying something for Scottish football.

For Steven Gerrard‘s Rangers, that means the chance to make good on their first full European tournament since the 2010-11 Europa League. They took the long way, winning four qualifying rounds to earn these nights. Now what? Perhaps their toughest test yet in Villarreal.

For Brendan Rodgers‘ Celtic, it’s an opportunity to show that while the Champions League has been a bit too rich for their blood, a Europa League group stage with Austrian, German, and Norwegian competition isn’t a problem for the best team in Scotland.

4. Arsenal vs. Vorskla Poltava

Forget the opposition: Unai Emery sees the Europa League as the opportunity to put more silverware in the halls of Arsenal HQ. From Arsenal.com:

“Every title for us is very important. In 2000, Arsenal played the final against Galatasaray but didn’t win. And also, Arsenal played the final in 2006 in the Champions League and also didn’t win. In my career, the ambition is very important for continuing to improve and continuing to achieve the objectives in my career personally and with the team. I want to play for every title going forward.”

There’s no reason to expect anything but a win for the Gunners against a team in just its second European group stage.

3. Marseille vs. Eintracht Frankfurt

Frank McCourt’s Olympique Marseille still doesn’t sound quite right, so let’s go with the manager. Rudi Garcia’s Olympique Marseille has a lot of weapons, including a trio of World Cup winners in Steve Mandanda, Florian Thauvin, and Adil Rami. Their Bundesliga visitors feature a Mexican national teamer (Carlos Salcedo) and an American (Timothy Chandler), but eyes will be trained on a Frenchman: Sebastian Heller has three goals and an assist in three league appearances this season.

2. PAOK vs. Chelsea

With all respect to Vieirinha and Amr Warda, this shouldn’t be a major challenge for Maurizio Sarri‘s men. Yes, even with Eden Hazard, Mateo Kovacic, and David Luiz being rested in London.

But it gets our circle because Sarri has called it the most difficult challenge of their group stage. BATE Borisov and MOL Vidi (formerly Videoton) are the other members of Group L. From ChelseaFC.com:

“I have seen the four matches played by PAOK in the Champions League play-offs. My staff have seen the matches of the Greek championship. I think I know everything.

“We want to play with our characteristics, to control the match with our ball possession, but I know tomorrow will be difficult. They are a good team. They have won against Basel, Spartak Moscow, they drew against Benfica in Portugal. We have to do a very good match if we want to gain points.”

1. RB Leipzig vs. Red Bull Salzburg

UEFA would prefer to avoid matches like this, even presumably one-sided ones, as two clubs owned by Red Bull square off in a meaningful competition. The pair being in the same group will be even trickier when there are chances to affect the next round fate of their brother club (The clubs aren’t technically deemed to have the same ownership, but it’s difficult to conclude the relationship isn’t a healthy one).

Celtic extend Old Firm streak with win over Gerrard’s Rangers

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Steven Gerrard‘s first taste of the Old Firm Derby is quite sour.

Rangers were well-drilled in its visit to Celtic Park on Sunday, but Olivier Ntcham‘s 62nd minute goal extended Celtic’s unbeaten derby run into an eighth season.

[ MORE: Serie A: Cristiano Ronaldo still scoreless, but Juventus still perfect ]

The match was full of fouls, hard tackles, and struck cross bars, as both teams threatened the goal but Celtic controlled play.

The win moves Celtic to 3-1 on the season, three points back of leaders Hearts. Rangers are now seven points back of first.

Ntcham is a former Man City player, and capped off a tremendous counter attack to put Celtic in front. Tom Rogic started the play on the edge of the Celtic area, and both Odsonne Edouard and James Forrest played parts in setting up Ntcham.

Ryan Christie dove to win a free kick from Connor Goldson on the edge of the 18, but Allan McGregor made an outstanding save to deny Chris Griffith’s solid effort.

Gerrard, Rodgers set for long-awaited first Old Firm clash

Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images & Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
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Steven Gerrard and Brendan Rodgers only spent three seasons together while the former played for the latter at Liverpool, but those 36 months were plenty memory — for reasons both good and bad.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview: Man Utd, Spurs, Arsenal hit the road ]

The duo — with a bit of help from Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, if memory serves well — nearly won the Premier League title in 2014, but the two reportedly had a falling-out over Gerrard’s role as he approached his 35th birthday the following season. In the end, Rodgers won out as Gerrard left his boyhood club for one an adventure with the LA Galaxy. Rodgers’ victory was short-lived, though, as he was fired five months later.

On Sunday, Gerrard and Rodgers will meet again — only this time, it’ll be as adversaries, each of them pacing the technical area for a Glaswegian giant (7 a.m. ET).

While much will understandably be made of the reunion, Gerrard insists there is no friction between himself and his former manager. He won’t treat Sunday’s showdown at Celtic Park any differently than he would the usual Old Firm derby, which never needs any additional spice added to it in the first place — quotes from the Guardian:

“I think everybody wants there to be a problem. I think they want a UFC match on the side. There’s no problem, [our relationship] is fine.

“I know a lot about him and his tactics. I know how he wants to play but Brendan is a clever coach and always has something up his sleeve. The reason why I respect him as a coach is that he always had something different. I think it would be very naive of me to expect what we see a lot of from the Celtic team. It wouldn’t surprise me if he tried something different to try and catch us cold. That’s what he would do as Liverpool manager.”

Rangers haven’t beaten Celtic in a league game since 2011. Gerrard and Co., have their work cut out for them, to say the least.

Europa League wrap: Hart helps Burnley escape; Hyndman debuts for Hibs

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We’ve seen this before from Burnley, a star goalkeeper standing strong in keeping the Clarets in a match.

[ MORE: PST’s Premier League roundtable ]

This time, however, it was Joe Hart who helped under siege Burnley in one of a bevy of UEFA Europa League third round first legs on Thursday.

Istanbul Basaksehir 0-0 Burnley

Sean Dyche‘s men were out shot 16-2 at Basaksehir Fatih Terim Stadyumu, and could not find an away goal in Turkey.

Joe Hart made a strong Clarets debut between the sticks, and Burnley will hope for a win at Turf Moor next week to move into the next round of the tournament.

Rangers 3-1 NK Maribor

Steven Gerrard‘s men allowed an away goal when Mitja Viler answered Alfredo Morelos’ sixth minute opener, but a James Tavernier penalty joined Lassana Coulibay’s 86th minute marker in giving ‘Gers a healthy advantage after one leg.

Hibernian 0-0 Molde

USMNT midfielder Emerson Hyndman came off the bench for the final nine minutes one day after joining Hibs on loan from Bournemouth.

Elsewhere
Pyunik 0-0 Maccabi Tel Aviv
Ufa 2-1 Progres Niederkorn
Alashkert 0-2 CFR Cluj
Hapoel Haifa 1-4 Atalanta
Spartaks Jurmala 0-1 Suduva
Apollon Limassol 4-0 Dinamo Brest
RB Leipzig 3-1 Universitatea Craiova
Trencin 4-0 Feyenoord
Dinamo Minsk 4-0 Zenit St. Petersburg
Hapoel Be’er Sheva 2-2 APOEL Nicosia
Ludogorets Razgrad 1-0 Zrinjski Mostar
Mariupol 1-3 Bordeaux
Sheriff Tiraspol 1-0 Valur Reykjavik
Sigma Olomouc 2-0 Kairat Almaty
Sturm Graz 0-2 AEK Larnaca
Torpedo Kutaisi 5-2 Kukesi
Jagiellonia Bialystok 0-1 Gent
CSKA Sofia 1-2 Copenhagen
Nordsjaelland 1-2 Partizan Belgrade
Besiktas 1-0 LASK
Genk 2-0 Lech Poznan
Olimpija Ljubljana 3-0 HJK Helsinki
Olympiakos 4-0 Luzern
Vitesse 0-1 Basel
Zorya Luhansk 1-1 Sporting Braga
Cork City 0-2 Rosenborg
Hajduk Split 0-0 Steaua Bucharest
Sarpsborg 1-1 HNK Rijeka
Spartak Subotica 0-2 Brondby
New Saints 0-2 Midtjylland
Legia Warsaw 1-2 F91 Dudelange
Slovan Bratislava 2-1 Rapid Vienna
Sevilla 1-0 Zalgiris