5 key players for Rangers to watch out for against Lyon ahead of Europa League encounter

Steven Gerrard will take charge of his 50th European game on Thursday night

Rangers embark on another Europa League campaign tomorrow night with Ligue 1 giants Lyon the visiting Ibrox in what will see manager Steven Gerrard take charge of his 50th European game.

In recent years, Gerrard has faced some mammoth European tests, but his side have passed with flying colours, recording memorable victories over the likes of Legia Warsaw, Porto, Standard Liege, Feyenoord, Braga and Galatasaray.

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Now a fresh challenge awaits the Gers as they look to plot their way through a group also containing Norwegian champions Brondby IF and Czech side Sparta Prague.

Gerrard will be targeting the perfect start to their tournament, but Lyon boast arguably one of the most talented squads Rangers will have faced in Europe so far.

The sides last met each other in a pre-season friendly in July 2020 with Rangers running out 2-0 winners, courtesy of two goals from Ianis Hagi.

However, since then the French outfit have undergone wholesale changes with new Dutch head coach Peter Bosz replacing Rudi Garcia at the end of the last season.

The loss of star performer Memphis Depay to Barcelona in June has left former Celtic striker Moussa Dembele as their main focal point in attack.

That is not to say Lyon are any weaker for their absence. They are still guaranteed to pose Rangers a significant threat on Thursday night.

Here, we pinpoint five Lyon players to watch out for:

1. LUCAS PAQUETA – Midfielder

Lyon’s sporting director Juninho was pivotal in bringing the Brazilian midfielder on board as he signed for £20m on a five-year-deal from AC Milan. He has played a starring role for his new club, performing a box-to-box role or equally adept as a No.10. Pacqueta has chipped in with goals and assists since his arrival and is renowned for his outstanding strength and work rate.

2. JASON DENAYER – Defender

The former Celtic loanee has been a rock at the heart of Lyon’s defence in recent seasons. Not blessed with pace, the Belgian international makes up for that weakness with his dominant aerial ability. Standing at 6ft 2in, his imposing presence around the opposition penalty area is likely to cause Rangers problems at set-pieces.

3. ISLAM SLIMANI – Striker

The former Sporting Lisbon frontman earned rave reviews for his performances, earning him a move to the Premier League with Leicester City in August 2016 for a reported fee of £28m. However, he failed to live up to expectation during his time at the King Power Stadium. His style of play didn’t match Leicester’s key strengths and he was sent out on loan to Newcastle United, Fenerbahçe and Monaco. Now settled again with Lyon, the Algerian has scored four goals in 24 appearances to date.

4. HOUSSEM AOUAR – Midfielder

A product of the Lyon academy, the 23-year-old Frenchman possess unquestionable talent and looks to have a big future ahead of him. A rising star with brilliant close control and the ability to change the speed of a game when required. Made his international debut in a friendly against Ukraine in October 2020 – the first of many caps to follow.

5. JEROME BOATENG – Defender

At the age of 33, the German centre-back boasts one of the strongest footballing CV’s in world football, having enjoyed great success during his ten-year stay at Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich. Capped 76 times by his country, Boateng has yet to make an impact after joining on a free transfer a fortnight ago. He was handed his debut as a second half substitute during Lyon’s 3-1 win over Strasbourg on Sunday and will look to form a solid defensive partnership with Denayer over the coming months.