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Europa League - Football: Rangers' James Tavernier 10/1 for Man of the Match

Eden Hazard and Antoine Griezmann are two big names that have won the Man of the Match award in a Europa League final in recent years and Rangers’ talismanic skipper James Tavernier is 10/1 with bet365 to rub shoulders with these greats on Wednesday night in Seville.

The way Tavernier has led his team through this competition, especially during the knockout stages where he’s managed an incredible seven goals, I think he’s a big runner to follow in the footsteps of some world-class players.

He shows amazing energy down that right-hand side, he’ll be all over the free-kicks and penalties having scored 18 and assisted 16 goals already this season and he could go down in history as the fourth player to lift a European trophy as captain of a Scottish team after Billy McNeill, John Greig and Willie Miller.

Filip Kostic may well be up against Tavernier down Frankfurt’s left-hand side in what could be a game deciding match-up. The 29-year-old Serbian, who bagged two important goals at Camp Nou when seeing off Europa League favourites Barcelona, leads the field at 8/1 alongside team-mate Rafael Borre, who was also on the scoresheet that night, and Rangers’ flying winger Ryan Kent.
Even if Giovanni van Bronckhorst doesn’t bring the trophy back to Ibrox, it’s been an incredible journey throughout a campaign that will live long in the memory, and even getting this far is a huge achievement.

Priced at 50/1 for success in the summer – and keep in mind this was long before the likes of Porto, Dortmund, Leipzig, Atalanta, Sevilla and Barcelona entered the fold – only the most optimistic of Rangers fans could have pictured this prior to their 5,000-mile round trip to the Armenian capital for the Europa League play-off round.

Alfredo Morelos’s goal in the first leg was enough to secure Rangers’ passage into the group stage, where they were drawn with Lyon, Sparta Prague and Brondby.

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They couldn’t have got off to a worse start, losing to Lyon and Sparta Prague, and having taken four points from two games against Brondby, the Bears were out to 150/1 to win the tournament and thoughts of being the first Scottish club to lift this trophy were far from the minds of most Rangers fans with.

Just a week or so later we had the man who’d returned Rangers to Scotland’s summit, Steven Gerrard, leaving Rangers in the blink of an eye to rub further salt into the wound.

Step forward, Van Bronckhorst, and despite just two training sessions with his new team, Rangers secured a 2-0 win over Sparta Prague to secure their passage into the last 32, now 66/1 for the trophy.

Their reward? A tie with Borussia Dortmund. Optimism would’ve been tempered, with Rangers being shunted out to 80/1 – bigger than they were at the start of the season! – to go one better than that May night in Manchester back in 2008 when losing 2-0 to Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Cup final.

Incredibly, they led 3-0 and 4-1 in Germany with James Tavernier opening the scoring, as he would do four more times in the knockout phase, eventually settling for just a two-goal lead to take back to Glasgow. It proved to be more than enough, drawing 2-2 at a bouncing Ibrox with Tavernier scoring two more, and Rangers had been cut from 80/1 before the first leg, to 40/1 before the second leg, to 20/1 after disposing with Dortmund.

The last 16 saw a tie with Red Star Belgrade which was wrapped up in the first leg. A penalty awarded by VAR, three Red Star goals ruled out, a penalty saved by Allan McGregor, whose crossbar was struck in the second half; it was very much Rangers’ night and a thoroughly deserved win.

To the quarter-finals, then and a trip to Braga, which threatened to be Rangers’ undoing. A 1-0 defeat in Portugal saw the Gers back out to 25/1, but two more goals from Tavernier would force extra-time, with Kemar Roofe securing their passage to the semi-finals.

Still outsiders of the four at 11/1, a 1-0 defeat to RB Leipzig again threatened to terminate Rangers’ European journey,

But once again, master marksman Tavernier came to the rescue, levelling the tie with his 18th-minute strike. Goals from Glen Kamara and John Lundstram had Ibrox rocking, sending Rangers to Seville with their odds of success collapsing from 11/1 into 6/5.

By Steve Freeth

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