Written by By Roger Emmett, CNN
For the sixth successive year, Manchester United will march into the European Champions League group stage. They will do so with a most impressive record: six wins, one draw and a solitary loss against Italian champions Juventus in their last outing.
While United are only runners-up in three of the last seven seasons (having reached the Champions League final in 2015), the battle for qualification for the Champions League from the Europa League is proving one of the most exciting European leagues.
Only the Premier League’s Manchester City have managed to win the Europa League more often than their rivals across town, and Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal have won it five times.
Yannick Carrasco celebrates scoring in Belgium’s 2-0 win over Cyprus on December 13. Credit: AP
If you’re looking for an alternative to the climax of the English Premier League’s season, here are a few matches to watch this week:
Rangers vs Sparta Prague
Date: Monday, December 18
Time: 19:45 GMT
Where: Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow, Scotland
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Rangers (14 points) will go through if they can defend the narrow advantage they hold over Slovenian side Maribor at the top of Group G and defeat their Czech counterparts in Glasgow.
Sparta (9 points) can send their host crashing out of the competition with victory if they take at least one point from their first game at Ibrox.
Northern Ireland’s Michael O’Neill, whose Northern Ireland side edged out Turkey 3-2 on Friday, will also take charge of the Celtic side at Ibrox next Monday night in an all-Scottish Champions League clash.