Steven Gerrard

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Europa League preview: Injured Arsenal still seeking knockout round berth

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The Europa League got a lot trickier on Wednesday, as it tends to do when UEFA Champions League outcasts transfer to the competition.

Inter Milan, Benfica, Ajax, Club Brugge, Olympiacos, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, and Red Bull Salzburg will join the competition for knockout stage.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Two of three Premier League sides have already laid claim to places in the next round, Wolves and Manchester United handling their business while Arsenal left its fate in the balance for Thursday’s final group stage match day.

Joining Man United and Wolves as already through to said Round of 32 are Sevilla, APOEL Nicosia, Basel, Sporting Lisbon, LASK, Celtic, Espanyol, Gent, Wolfsburg, Braga, and AZ Alkmaar.

So what hasn’t been decided? Let’s begin with the Gunners.

Arsenal needs just a point from Standard Liege in Belgium on Thursday to advance, although an unlikely Eintracht Frankfurt home loss to Vitoria SC would send a defeated Gunners onto the Round of 32.

Freddie Ljungberg is missing a lot of firepower. Nicolas Pepe is now dinged up, joining Hector Bellerin, Granit Xhaka, Rob Holding, and Dani Ceballos as unavailable.

“But we’ve brought a lot of firepower here, we have younger players here who have played earlier in the group stages, not just now. They’ve been playing the whole time. So it’s a big game and we’re here to get a result. We have a lot of respect for the opponents.”

While Ljungberg’s status as Arsenal boss feels likely to be short-term, another club whose UEL status is up in the air sees its manager looking long-term.

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard is coming off the disappointment of what would’ve been a deserved silverware triumph off an age-old rival, and now immediately has to get his team to bounce back and earn a spot in the next round.

[ MORE: Five UCL match-ups we’d love to see ]

Celtic saved a penalty and scored an offside goal — no VAR — in lifting the Scottish League Cup this weekend in a 1-0 win over Rangers, but the defeated Glaswegians will be buoyed by the news that Gerrard is making progress on an improved deal.

“(Only being here for a couple of years) wasn’t in my thinking, it has been in the thinking of the majority of everyone else – ‘Oh, Rangers is a stepping stone’ or ‘He’s just going there to rehearse for something else.’ It’s a load of nonsense – I’ve come here as this is a big opportunity for me and I have no plans of going anywhere else.”

Rangers (eight points) simply need a point at home against Swiss powers Young Boys, who enter the game one point back of Glasgow’s blue side. Porto is also a point back of Rangers, and they’ll meet last place Feyenoord (five points).

Full Thursday slate

12:55 p.m. ET
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Vitoria
CFR Cluj v. Celtic
LASK v. Sporting Lisbon
Copenhagen v. Malmo
PSV Eindhoven v. Rosenborg
Qarabag v. Dudelange
Standard Liege v. Arsenal
Basel v. Trabzonspor
Dynamo Kiev v. Lugano
APOEL Nicosia v. Sevilla
Rennes v. Lazio
Getafe v. Krasnodar

3 p.m. ET
Rangers v. Young Boys
Wolves v. Besiktas
Espanyol v. CSKA Moscow
Gent v. Oleksandriya
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Porto v. Feyenoord
Ludogorets Razgrad v. Ferencvaros
Slovan Bratislava v. Braga
Roma v. Wolfsberg
Manchester United v. AZ Alkmaar
Wolfsburg v. Saint-Etienne
Partizan Belgrade v. Astana

Gerrard reacts to Rangers’ Old Firm heartbreak in final

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Steven Gerrard lined his Rangers side up for success, but fate was cruel to the Liverpool legend.

Rangers lost the League Cup Final to their Old Firm rivals on Sunday despite out-shooting the Bhoys by a 16-5 margin, winning a penalty, and playing almost a half-hour up a man.

[ RECAP: Rangers 0-1 Celtic ]

“To a man we were very good … by much the better side,” Gerrard said. “But unfortunately that’s not what gets you a trophy.”

But Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Alfredo Morelos’ penalty, three minutes after goal scorer Christopher Jullien was offside on the lone goal of the game.

Scotland doesn’t yet use VAR, and Gerrard doesn’t love VAR but he likes it more than he likes Scottish officials.

“There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR,” he said, via the BBC. “I’d be a liar if I said I was 100% in favour of it, but the one thing I do know is that officials up here need support.”

Now he has the task of getting his men to rebound ahead of its biggest non-derby in ages, as Rangers need at least a draw against Young Boys at home on Thursday to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds

“It’s a bit raw right now… It’s up to me to pick the players up. One thing I will say is I’ll stay with these players on the evidence of today because they gave me absolutely everything. We might have to suffer a bit short-term. I need to pick them up a bit physically and mentally for Thursday which is huge but our day will come on the evidence of today.”

Gerrard has done a very good job with Rangers, who are two points back of Celtic in a two-horse race for the Scottish top flight title. Celtic has won eight-straight titles to improve their total to 50, four less than the Rangers.

Forster stars as 10-man Celtic beat Rangers, claim 10th-straight trophy

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At some point, Rangers supporters will be forgiven for thinking Celtic doesn’t have all the luck in Scotland.

The Bhoys, second best for most of the day, scored a 60th minute goal and then overcame a red card three minutes later to claim their 10th successive piece of Scottish silverware with a 1-0 win the Scottish League Cup.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Celtic’s Chris Jullien prodded home a free kick before 18-year-old Jeremie Frimpong was sent off, and Rangers had already controlled the proceedings before seeing a 16-5 edge in shot attempts at the final whistle.

Goalkeeper Fraser Forster, the former Saints and Newcastle man, was outstanding in the win, even stopping an Alfredo Morelos penalty as the Rangers star failed to deliver.

From the BBC:

“It was just one of them days, it went my way today. I’m buzzing. There’s been days when it’s not gone my way, today it has. I can’t say how much it means to me. I didn’t really think about the penalty to be honest. I picked the way it went. I’ll take it.

“That’s why I came back; to play in games like this, to win silverware, to play European football.”

Europa League wrap: Late heroics lead Celtic, Gladbach to wins

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Manchester United was one of five clubs to punch tickets to the Europa League knockout rounds by the end of play Thursday.

[ RECAPS: Man Utd-Partizan | Wolves-Slovan Bratislava ]

The Red Devils beat Partizan Belgrade to join Sevilla, Celtic, Espanyol, and Basel in the next stage, while five teams have been eliminated: Rennes, Trabzonspor, Rosenborg, Besiktas, and Astana.

Borussia Monchengladbach 2-1 AS Roma

Federico Fazio made amends for an early own goal by leveling the score for AS Roma, but if you’ve been following the Bundesliga this year you know there was always a pretty good chance that Lilian Thuram’s kid Marcus was gonna make an impact on the proceedings.

Lazio 1-2 Celtic

Ciro Immobile’s early goal threatened to thwart the visitors’ hopes of a clinched knockout round berth, but James Forrest leveled the score before halftime and Olivier Ntcham found a winner deep in stoppage time to deliver the goods. Celtic made the Round of 32 last year before bowing out to Valencia.

Rangers 2-0 Porto

Alfredo Morales and Steven Davis secured a keynote win for Steven Gerrard‘s managerial resume, taking four of six points from the Portuguese giants. It’s not over yet, though, as Rangers’ 7 points are joint-top with Young Boys and both Feyenoord and Porto have four with two matches to play.

Full Europa League scoreboard

Vitoria 1-1 Arsenal — Wednesday, RECAP
APOEL Nicosia 2-1 Qarabag
Dudelange 2-5 Sevilla
CFR Cluj 1-0 Rennes
Standard Liege 2-1 Eintracht Frankfurt
LASK 4-1 PSV Eindhoven
Basel 2-1 Getafe
Lugano 0-0 Malmo
Manchester United 3-0 Partizan Belgrade — RECAP
Astana 0-5 AZ Alkmaar
Copenhagen 1-1 Dynamo Kiev
Krasnodar 3-1 Trabzonspor
Braga 3-1 Besiktas — USMNT’s Boyd scores
Rosenborg 0-2 Sporting Lisbon
Feyenoord 1-1 Young Boys
Porto 2-0 Glasgow Rangers
Ferencvaros 0-0 CSKA Moscow
Espanyol 6-0 Ludogorets
Wolfsburg 1-3 Gent
Oleksandriya 2-2 Saint-Etienne
Wolfsberg 0-3 Istanbul Basaksehir
Borussia Monchengladbach 2-1 Roma
Wolves 1-0 Slovan Bratislava — RECAP

If Klopp left Liverpool, he would back Gerrard to replace him

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Jurgen Klopp is living in the headlines this week, which is fitting considering the monster state of his Liverpool side, a FIFA award as best men’s manager, and a commitment to donate one percent of his salary to Juan Mata‘s Common Goal Initiative.

[ MORE: Top PL story lines ]

So it’s a little off-putting to see the Liverpool man talking about what will happen when he’s no longer the Reds’ boss. That’s unlikely to happen any time soon, of course, but it’s interesting to note the man he sees as his successor should a job change occur at Anfield.

It’s also worth nothing that we’ve all read or seen long interviews with Klopp, and they head on tangents. We’re just talking theoreticals, people.

Klopp was asked about working under club legend Kenny Dalglish, and his answer was that it’s not a problem.

From FourFourTwo.com:

“My position as a manager has nothing to do with the people around me. If Liverpool were to sack me tomorrow, then maybe Kenny would be the first choice to replace me, but they would probably bring Stevie down from Glasgow.

“If you ask who should follow me, I’d say Stevie. I help him whenever I can. If someone gets your job, it’s not about them, it’s about you not being good enough.”

Bringing back club legends to steady the ship is very much en vogue these days, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United and Frank Lampard at Chelsea.

Gerrard’s Rangers again sit second to Celtic in the Scottish Premiership table. They won their Europa League opener against Feyenoord and next face Young Boys.