Willem II playmaker insists 'nothing is impossible' for Dutch side against Rangers

Willem II midfielder Gorkem Saglam has insisted the Dutch underdogs won’t be fazed by the reputation of either Rangers or their manager Steven Gerrard in Thursday night’s Europa League third qualifying round tie.

Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 5:53 pm
Willem II midfielder Gorkem Saglam and his team-mates in celebratory mood after their 5-0 Europa League win against Progres Niederkorn. Photo by Hollandse Hoogte/Shutterstock
Willem II midfielder Gorkem Saglam and his team-mates in celebratory mood after their 5-0 Europa League win against Progres Niederkorn. Photo by Hollandse Hoogte/Shutterstock

Rangers are odds-on favourites to beat the unfashionable Eredivisie side at the Koning Willem II Stadium in Tilburg and book a play-off round tie at home to either Galatasaray or Hajduk Split next week.

The Ibrox club are bidding to get into the group stage of the Europa League for a third consecutive season under Gerrard, having lost just five of their 33 matches in the competition since the former Liverpool and England captain took charge in 2018.

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Willem II has little in the way of a European pedigree, having won just one tie in their four previous seasons in any of the major continental club competitions since they made their debut with a 7-2 aggregate defeat against Manchester United in the Cup Winners’ Cup back in 1963.

This season they are in Europe for the first time in 15 years, courtesy of their fifth placed finish in the curtailed 2019-20 Eredivisie campaign.

But German under-20 international Saglam, one of the stand-out players for Willem II so far this season, believes they can spring a surprise in the single-leg qualifier.

“Nothing is impossible, also against Rangers and against Steven Gerrard as a coach,” said Saglam. “So we will do our best.

“I’m very excited about the game. These European games are even more exciting because they are something different for us. Maybe you will only ever play once against Rangers and this is the time for us now.

“It will be one of the hardest games we will ever have because I think they are physically very strong. Teams from the Scottish league are always physical.

“We will have to be at our best but we have to focus on ourselves, not that much on Rangers, because we also have so much quality.”

Saglam has scored in each of Willem II’s last two matches, the 5-0 win over Progres Niederkorn in Luxembourg in the Europa League last Thursday and in Sunday’s 4-0 Eredivisie victory at home to Heracles.

The 22-year-old has also provided assists for Greek international striker Vangelis Pavlidis who has scored braces in each of those games and has been singled out as the potential danger man from Rangers’ perspective by Gerrard.

Saglam, who joined Willem II from German side VfL Bochum earlier this year, feels they now have important momentum behind them after kicking off the season with a 2-0 defeat away to Heerenveen.

“The whole team is feeling great right now,” he told Willem II’s official YouTube channel. “It’s been a good week. For most of us, it was the first time we have played a European game.

“It was important to get good results this week. The result in the first league game against Heerenveen was not that good.

“But against Niederkorn we had a good shape and you saw on Sunday (against Heracles) we were fit. We scored beautiful goals in the second half.

“It was my first goal for Willem II (against Niederkorn) and my first European goal. I’ve made assists also, so it has been such a beautiful week.”

Willem II struggled in a goalless first half against Heracles before producing some fluent football and sharp finishing after the break.

“I would not describe the first half as wrong, because it was a tough game,” said Saglam. “We didn’t concede a goal. We played well defensively and offensively in the second half, we were compact and it was a well deserved win.”

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