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Rangers face Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 clash in Lisbon on Thursday night.

The Ibrox side resume their European journey as leaders of the cinch Premiership, despite slipping to a 2-1 defeat at home to Motherwell at the weekend.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the challenge posed to Philippe Clement’s men by the Portuguese side.


While Rangers suffered their first defeat of 2024 at Ibrox on Saturday, Benfica were handed a humiliating 5-0 thrashing by Porto at the Estadio do Dragao on Sunday, with the result opening up the Primeira Liga title race. Galeno scored twice in the first half before goals after the break from Wendell, Pepe and Danny Namaso earned the home side their joint-biggest league victory against Benfica, who played with 10 men for the last 30 minutes after Nicolas Otamendi was sent off for a second bookable offence. Having played a game less than their two main title rivals, Sporting are top of the league with 59 points, one above Benfica who are six ahead of Porto.

European pedigree

Benfica broke Real Madrid’s monopoly in the European Cup (now known as the Champions League) when they beat Barcelona 3-2 in the 1961 final in Switzerland. It was the first time in six years the trophy had left Spain and it remained in Portugal the following year when Benfica beat Real Madrid 5-3 in Amsterdam. However, The Eagles have been all out of luck since then. They lost the final in 1963, 1965, 1968, 1988 and 1990 and also reached three UEFA Cup/Europa League finals (1983, 2013 and 2014) before again coming up short. Rangers played Benfica in the group stages of the 2020/21 Europa League, drawing 2-2 at Ibrox and 3-3 in Lisbon.


German Roger Schmidt became head coach in May 2022. His first season saw the 56-year-old win the Primeira Liga title but that was not his first success in management. Schmidt won the league and cup double with Red Bull Salzburg in 2014, as well as cups with Chinese outfit Beijing Sinobo Guoan in 2018 and Dutch side PSV in 2022. He was also boss of Bayer Leverkusen between 2014 and 2017. It was widely reported that Benfica president Rui Costa was forced to back Schmidt after the German refused to apologise to fans for the 5-0 defeat to Porto – which followed a 2-1 loss to league leaders Sporting Lisbon – and there is no doubt he goes into the first leg against Rangers under pressure.


Benfica have a squad packed with internationals, with Argentina World Cup winners Angel Di Maria and Otamendi arguably the two star names, albeit in the latter stages of their careers. Former Real Madrid, Paris St Germain and Manchester United forward Di Maria is 36, as is former Manchester City defender Otamendi. Anatoliy Trubin is the Ukraine national team’s goalkeeper and left-back Alvaro Carreras is on loan from Manchester United. Fredrik Aursnes is a Norway international, while midfielder Joao Mario and forward Rafa Silva play for Portugal. Turkey international Orkun Kokcu signed last summer from Feyenoord – where he was a team-mate of Rangers striker Cyril Dessers – while they also have Brazilian duo Arthur Cabral and David Neres.