Declan Rice and Christopher Nkunku have joined victorious Eintracht Frankfurt stars in headlining the Europa League's team of the season.

The selections for the competition's end-of-season awards were announced by UEFA on Friday, two days after Eintracht's final shootout triumph against Rangers.

Wing-backs Filip Kostic and Ansgar Knauff earned individual recognition, the former the player of the season and the latter the young player of the season.

But there was no room for Knauff in the best XI, with Rangers captain James Tavernier, the competition's leading scorer, preferred.

Tavernier had two Rangers colleagues in the team in Calvin Bassey and Ryan Kent, yet Kostic was one of four Eintracht players.

Penalty heroes Kevin Trapp and Rafael Borre made the cut, alongside defender Martin Hinteregger.

Perhaps the two biggest names included were beaten semi-finalists, however, with Rice and Nkunku – both set to be the subject of close-season transfer speculation – recognised.

Departing Napoli great Lorenzo Insigne did not make the side but was awarded the goal of the season his stunning strike against Legia Warsaw.

Europa League team of the season:

Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt); Craig Dawson (West Ham), Martin Hinteregger (Eintracht Frankfurt), Calvin Bassey (Rangers); James Tavernier (Rangers), Konrad Laimer (RB Leipzig), Declan Rice (West Ham), Filip Kostic (Eintracht Frankfurt); Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig), Rafael Borre (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ryan Kent (Rangers).

In a pre-match news conference lacking much talk of the opposition, there was one question that stood out in that regard ahead of Rangers' Europa League final clash with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Gers captain James Tavernier was pointedly asked for his opinion on Eintracht wing-back Filip Kostic, given the pair are likely to see a lot of each other on the flank they'll share.

"Obviously I respect how he's been playing, he's a top player," Tavernier said. "But, I've just got to bring the best version of myself when the game starts and try to cause him all the problems, try to make him deal with me for the majority of the game. That's all I can really do."

Tavernier's response didn't offer any particularly great insight, but his mentality of wanting to cause Kostic as many problems was at least another identifier of how their duel could be such a key battle.

Of course, it's worth pointing out that Tavernier, a right-back, remarkably heads into Wednesday's game as the Europa League's top scorer on seven goals, and realistically – or, unrealistically – only a hat-trick from Eintracht's Daichi Kamada can prevent the Englishman from at least ending the season with a share of the competition's golden boot.

Further to that, he netted 19 times over the course of the 2020-21 season and could yet match that figure this term – he also has an impressive assists haul of 17.

If it needs reiterating, he's a huge contributor for Rangers in the final third.

So, given he's technically a right-back, there's obviously an element of Tavernier needing to be solid defensively on Wednesday, but some might suggest it's even more essential he's as sharp as ever going forward as that would not only give Rangers a credible threat on the right, but it would potentially keep Kostic occupied in a deeper position.

Granted, Eintracht's set-up with a back three should always ensure they have an extra man to cover for Kostic's runs forward, while the two attacking midfielders supporting Rafael Borre up top often occupy narrow, deeper berths in order to maximise the space out wide for their biggest threat.

Yet there's always the possibility of an overload in behind Kostic if the conditions are right, such is his attacking influence.

 

After all, the frequency at which Kostic delivers into the box is frankly astonishing. This season, he has been the executor of 519 crosses and corners, 140 more than any other player in the top five leagues – Trent Alexander-Arnold is second with 379.

Kostic's 78 successful crosses from open play is also a season-high. Of course, you would expect him to lead the way given he's attempted so many more than anyone else, but his 26.8 per cent accuracy (crosses/corners) is right in line with the average (among players with at least 100 attempted). That in itself is impressive given his greater frequency.

Another way of looking at it is, he is producing one accurate open-play cross every 45.4 minutes. While that may not sound incredible on the face of it, his 12.4 expected assists (xA) is the 10th highest among players in the top five leagues, highlighting just how much of a weapon he is in terms of his creative quality.

So, while he may be classed as a wing-back in terms of his position on a team line-up graphic, the Serbian is there for his attacking tendencies.

A cursory glance at his map of open-play chances created proves that point.

 

But Rangers must also be aware of the danger posed on the opposite flank.

Ansgar Knauff has been one of the stars of Eintracht's journey to the final, with the 20-year-old becoming something of a revelation in the past few months.

As recently as mid-January he was turning out for Borussia Dortmund's second team in the third tier. Then he joined Eintracht on loan and has since scored important Europa League goals against Barcelona and West Ham.

His impact on the road to Seville has been significant, with his brilliant athleticism, bravery and confidence on the ball making him a real asset on the right-hand side.

Before Knauff's arrival, Eintracht were rather lopsided, with their other options on the right far from convincing. Sure, Kostic remains their main outlet, but Knauff's emergence has provided them with another – albeit stylistically different – threat on the other side, giving them greater balance.

 

Across all competitions since his Eintracht debut in early February, only Kostic (5.6) and Jesper Lindstrom (2.6) have amassed better xA records than Knauff, who is also fifth to those two, Borre and Kamada in terms of xA and xG (expected goals) combined.

He may not be their deadliest weapon, but he's proven he can offer them a lot, and his team-high 61 dribble attempts in that period proves he's happy to make his markers work for their money.

Oliver Glasner's team is full of neat, technical players and is also blessed with fine work ethic, as it would need to be to play their high-pressing football.

But their width and desire to attack from the flanks is fundamental to how they play – while it may be easier said than done, limiting their effectiveness out wide would go a long way to ending Rangers' 50-year European trophy drought.

James Tavernier's first Europa League run appeared likely to be his last.

The right-back finally got his chance at Newcastle United in 2012-13 as Alan Pardew's first-team squad was stretched to breaking point.

However, Tavernier's chance equated to just eight appearances and five starts in all competitions, utilised right across the defence. He played 301 minutes in Europe (including qualifiers) but looked a little out of his depth.

By the time Newcastle reached the quarter-finals of the competition, Tavernier had played his last game for the club.

The following season brought the fifth and sixth loan moves of his career – all to League One or below. A permanent transfer to Wigan Athletic followed, but Tavernier was soon back out on loan again – to League One again.

This underwhelming sequence of temporary moves to the third tier for a player once seen as a potential Premier League starter was interrupted then by Rangers. Heading to the Scottish Championship, it would have taken incredible foresight to even imagine how Tavernier's career might be transformed.

Newcastle may not have had another European campaign in the past nine years, but Tavernier has enjoyed five – and now, in Seville, a final.

The right-back goal machine

Rangers hoped for goals when they struck a deal with Wigan to bring Martyn Waghorn and Tavernier to Ibrox in 2015. Waghorn delivered in the club's promotion campaign, scoring 28 times in all competitions, but Rangers surely could not have anticipated Tavernier would also chip in with 15.

While Waghorn is long gone, having not performed at quite the same level on Rangers' return to the top tier, Tavernier has since maintained his staggering standard. In 345 Rangers appearances, the defender has scored 83 goals.

This season, Tavernier has scored 18 goals and assisted a further 16 for 34 goal involvements.

Having either scored or assisted every 147 minutes on average in 2021-22, Tavernier is operating in the same sort of range as Rafael Leao (141), Dejan Kulusevski (144), Luis Suarez (153) and, incredibly, Sadio Mane (157).

Nahuel Molina, the highest-scoring defender in Europe's top five leagues, has scored just eight times, while even Trent Alexander-Arnold's leading goal involvements tally of 20 is dwarfed by the man playing north of the border.

Tavernier's status as Rangers' penalty taker boosts his numbers, of course, but he still has six goals and 22 goal involvements discounting his dozen efforts from 12 yards.

The standard of the competition in Scotland might also be counted against Tavernier, yet his 16 European appearances alone have yielded seven goals (three non-penalty goals), three assists and 10 goal involvements – again at a rate of one every 147 minutes.

Top marksman with Morelos missing

Tavernier's first goal involvement of this European campaign saw the Rangers captain lift a pass in behind the Alashkert defence for Alfredo Morelos to score what proved to be the decisive goal of their Europa League play-off, getting the then Scottish champions back on track after Champions League qualifying heartbreak.

Wednesday's final against Eintracht Frankfurt would not have been possible without that August example of this most effective assister-scorer combination.

Unfortunately, Rangers will not be able to rely on that link-up again this week, with Morelos ruled out for the season when he underwent thigh surgery last month, seemingly dealing a sizeable blow to his side's hopes of European glory.

Morelos, with 29 goals, is Rangers' all-time leading European marksman, while he this season also became their top scorer discounting qualifiers as he brought his total to 15.

"It is a big blow to us, because he is our striker and we now don't have him any more this season, so we are disappointed," manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst said.

"But we know what the problem is, how long he's out, and we have to move on. That's the only thing we have to do now."

Tavernier has since ensured the talismanic forward has not been missed. His seven goals are the most ever by a Rangers player in a European campaign (excluding qualifiers) – Morelos in 2019-20 had a share of the previous record of six – and remarkably make him the leading scorer in this season's Europa League.

The man for the big occasion, each of Tavernier's goals have come in the knockout stage, including opening the scoring in each of Rangers' four home legs.

When Kemar Roofe joined Morelos on the sidelines against RB Leipzig in the semi-finals, it was Tavernier who appeared in the centre-forward position to level the tie in Glasgow with his 15th European goal (10 excluding qualifiers).

Trent of the Europa League

The first of Tavernier's European goals came back in July 2018, by which point Alexander-Arnold had already played in a Champions League final for Liverpool.

Alexander-Arnold might be seven years Tavernier's junior, but he has been a source of inspiration in recent seasons for the Rangers skipper, who named him alongside Liverpool team-mate Andy Robertson and Brazil greats Dani Alves, Marcelo and Cafu in October 2020 as a standard-bearer in the full-back role.

And comparisons between the pair, both of whom are preparing for European finals, come easily.

Alexander-Arnold has created 19 chances in the Champions League this season, just behind Tavernier's 20 in the Europa League, with the pair each highly influential both in open play and from set-pieces.

Tavernier makes a long list of English right-backs who remain uncapped at international level due to the incredible competition in Gareth Southgate's Three Lions squad, and former Rangers captain Lorenzo Amoruso tells Stats Perform: "I showcased him in Italy, but nobody cared because, of course, it happened to me, too: the best player in Scotland, thanks to some unbelievable performances, but never a call for the national team.

"I think I deserved it – at least as a reward or out of curiosity. This Amoruso, as a defender, becomes the best player in Scotland... it is not something that happens every day. The same applies to Tavernier."

Yet even Alexander-Arnold has only turned out 16 times for England, clearly behind Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and now Reece James in the pecking order.

The explanations for Alexander-Arnold's limited opportunities often focus on his defensive shortcomings – the same attributes for which Tavernier has come under scrutiny.

However, neither have committed an error leading to a shot, let alone a goal, in the Champions League or Europa League this season, and Tavernier actually measures favourably next to Alexander-Arnold by several defensive metrics.

Alexander-Arnold has made 1.9 tackles and 0.9 interceptions per 90 minutes to Tavernier's 1.6 tackles and 1.2 interceptions, but the Liverpool man has been dribbled past every 54 minutes on average and won only 48.2 per cent of his duels. Tavernier has been dribbled past every 150 minutes and won 56.3 per cent of his duels.

Those numbers will perhaps regress a little next season if Tavernier is playing in the Champions League, but he has to get there first by beating Frankfurt. And Rangers will likely be more concerned by their right-back's attacking output on Wednesday than his work going the other way.

John Lundstram saluted his "best night by a country mile" after firing Rangers to the Europa League final after their dramatic victory over RB Leipzig on Thursday.

The midfielder was the hero as he struck the winner 10 minutes from time for Giovanni van Bronckhorst's side, who prevailed 3-2 on aggregate at Ibrox.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, first-half goals from James Tavernier and Glen Kamara turned the tie on its head, before Christopher Nkunku squared proceedings with 20 minutes remaining.

But there was to be one late twist as Lundstram sent Ibrox into ecstasy, with his goal setting up a showdown with Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville on May 18.

"I can't put it into words," he told BT Sport. "I came in with a good feeling, but to actually go out and do it, I can't put it into words.

"We've been through so many ups and downs this season but to come through it and reach a Europa League final, wow!

"It's my best night by a country mile."

Lundstram also paid tribute to Rangers' much-loved kit man Jimmy Bell, who died on Wednesday at the age of 69.

"Words can’t describe how much Jimmy meant to everyone," the midfielder added. "He was the bedrock of the team. 

"I want to dedicate the goal tonight to him, I love him to bits."

Skipper Tavernier added: "It's unbelievable. A European final; it's what you dream of.

"We'll go there [Seville] full of confidence. Frankfurt got there for a reason, but it's one game and we'll fully back ourselves. 

"We're in this to win it. We want to make all the fans proud."

Meanwhile, Van Bronckhorst was delighted with the efforts of his players, and has urged them to grasp their opportunity in the final.

"It's very hard to find the words. It's been an amazing night," the head coach said.

"We said before the game we'd do everything possible. The players were fantastic. You can't write a script better than this. We're all very proud.

"Not many players can play European finals. It's not for every player. Once we're there, we need to do everything to win it. It's remarkable."

Kemar Roofe scored an extra-time winner as Rangers secured their place in the Europa League semi-finals with a 3-1 victory over nine-man Braga, who lost 3-2 on aggregate.

James Tavernier's first-half double, including a penalty awarded after Vitor Tormena was dismissed for a foul on Roofe, put Rangers in control with a 2-1 aggregate lead.

David Carmo's 83rd-minute header sent the tie into extra-time before Roofe, who had two goals disallowed, netted the decisive strike prior to Iuri Medeiros being given his marching orders.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst's men will next face RB Leipzig, who defeated Atalanta 3-1 on aggregate on Thursday, with the first leg of the last-four clash coming on April 28.

Rangers struck first when Tavernier rolled underneath Matheus at the back post after a deflection from Joe Aribo following Borna Barisic's cross.

The hosts were in dreamland three minutes later when Roofe headed home another delivery from Barisic, only for the goal to be ruled out for handball against the full-back.

Roofe then fired against the crossbar from point-blank range following Aribo's flick from a Tavernier corner as Rangers continued to dominate, and their reward arrived soon after.

Tormena was shown red for felling Roofe when through on goal, with Tavernier converting the penalty down the middle.

Roofe saw another strike ruled out in the second half, this time for offside, after chipping Matheus, before Carmo levelled with a powerful header from Medeiros' corner.

Conor Goldson nodded wide in the closing stages before extra-time, where Roofe latched onto Aribo's low cross to turn home from close range.

Medeiros was shown two yellow cards in quick succession for a foul on Leon Balogun and his subsequent riled reaction, before Scott Arfield hit the crossbar, but that miss did not come back to haunt Rangers.

What does it mean? Rangers overcome knockout specialists Braga

Braga had progressed from their previous nine ties in the UEFA Cup and Europa League when winning the first leg, with eight of those previous nine victories coming in home matches.

But Rangers ended that stellar record as they battled valiantly to overturn a first-leg deficit in Europe's secondary club competition for the third time in their last four attempts.

Now, Van Bronckhorst's men must overcome in-form Bundesliga side Leipzig to reach the final.

Terrific Tavernier

Tavernier offered Rangers the perfect start when he netted their fastest goal in the competition after just 71 seconds, and it was also the earliest Braga have conceded in the Europa League.

The hosts' captain then added his second from 12 yards as he became the joint-top scorer in this season's competition (six). No Rangers player has ever scored more in a single European campaign (also Alfredo Morelos in 2019-20 and James Forrest in 1964-65).

Vitor Tormen-ted

Tormena handed Rangers the perfect opportunity to take the aggregate lead by barging through the back of Roofe when he was one-on-one with Matheus.

Not only was the left-back given his early marching orders, but he also gave away possession the most times before his dismissal (eight) and was unsuccessful in all of his three duels.

Medeiros' red then made matters worse as Braga became the first side since Rangers last season to have two players sent off in the same knockout game in the competition.

What's next?

Rangers return to domestic action with an Old Firm clash against Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-finals on Sunday, while Braga visit Estoril the following day.

Rangers boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst saluted his players as they sent Borussia Dortmund crashing out of the Europa League, describing the 6-4 aggregate victory as "a big moment for the club."

Leading 4-2 after a stunning first-leg performance at Signal Iduna Park, the reigning Scottish Premiership champions endured a tense second leg at Ibrox.

Despite James Tavernier's first-half penalty, Jude Bellingham and Donyell Malen reduced the aggregate deficit to a single goal before the break.

Indeed, Malen might have dragged Dortmund level in the tie, but Tavernier drilled in his second just before the hour mark, ultimately booking the hosts' place in the last-16 draw despite Rangers having a third disallowed after a VAR check.

"It is a big moment for the club, we can make a lot of people proud as it was a difficult game again," Van Bronckhorst told BT Sport.

"We were very unfortunate in some moments where we could have cleared the ball. We had to change something to be more defensively solid.

"[Alfredo] Morelos was much stronger in the second half, and we had many more dangerous moments.

"We trained with three different plans for today. We needed to have scenarios in place to be executed, and I'm glad we did.

"We had a great performance; we played them twice and got four points – it’s a great performance. 

"The last 16 is only top teams; we wait for them, and we look forward to the draw."

Dortmund star Bellingham suggested he and his team-mates only had themselves to blame.

"It was brilliant to play in. A good team, a good test," the England international told BT Sport, having created a joint team-high three chances.

"We didn't have the bite we had in the first half. It's just one of those nights, we didn't take all our chances and they took theirs, fair play to them.

"We've let the fans, the staff and ourselves down. If we look at ourselves in the mirror, we'll realise we could've done more."

Bellingham is not wrong. Dortmund finished with a higher expected goals (xG) than Rangers (2.97 to 2.26).

Two-goal Tavernier, meanwhile, revealed that a tactical reshuffle at the break proved instrumental for Rangers.

"We really stepped up in the second half after we changed tactically, it allowed us to progress," Rangers' captain explained.

"The manager told us that we have to follow the runners and tighten it up a bit; that’s what we do in our back five system, and it works for us.

"We are really impressive, the result was pleasing. I always try to get to back post, and I got the goal today.

"This game shows the character that we have in the squad; we have a great squad that can push through."

Rangers have qualified for the round of 16 in the Europa League for a third consecutive season, which is their longest streak of reaching at least this stage in a major European competition since a run of three between 2005-06 and 2007-08 – they reached the final of the UEFA Cup in the last season of that previous run.

Dortmund, meanwhile, have been eliminated in three of their past four two-legged ties in the knockout stages of the Europa League, losing against Liverpool in the 2015-16 quarter-finals, Salzburg in the 2017-18 round of 16 and Rangers this season.

James Tavernier scored twice as Rangers booked their place in the Europa League last 16 with a 2-2 draw against Borussia Dortmund, which sealed a 6-4 aggregate win.

A week on from their brilliant 4-2 triumph at Signal Iduna Park, Rangers had their captain to thank as they secured progression on a frantic night in Glasgow.

Tavernier opened the scoring from the spot in the 22nd minute, but the excellent Jude Bellingham equalised for Dortmund before Donyell Malen put the visitors ahead.

Rangers' resolve returned in the second half, though, with Tavernier drilling in his second just before the hour to end BVB's Europa League hopes.

Bellingham had hit the post as Dortmund looked to deflate the raucous atmosphere at Ibrox, but having withstood the early pressure Rangers went ahead – Tavernier slamming a penalty down the middle after Julian Brandt fouled Ryan Kent.

Brandt wasted a chance to make immediate amends, but Bellingham restored parity when he slotted in after pouncing onto Connor Goldson's poor touch.

Scott Arfield and Alberto Morelos went close for Rangers before Allan McGregor brilliantly denied Malen at the other end in the space of a minute.

McGregor had no chance when Malen prodded past him in the 42nd minute to put Dortmund ahead, however.

Gregor Kobel got down to Morelos' goal-bound shot after the restart, but BVB were made to pay for more dismal defending when Tavernier lashed in at the back post from Joe Aribo's cross.

Dortmund seemed set to regain their lead when Marco Reus rounded McGregor but sliced into the side-netting.

Instead, Rangers were in delirium when Morelos raced through and squared for Kent to tuck in, only for referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz to harshly disallow the goal for a foul on Emre Can after a VAR check, although it ultimately mattered not.

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