Rangers were required to play a preliminary round in the competition where they beat Ferencváros from Hungary 5-4 on aggregate. They were then drawn against Borussia Mönchengladbach from Germany who they then defeated 11-0 on aggregate. In the semi final Rangers were then required to play English team Wolverhampton Wanderers. Rangers won the tie 3-1 on aggregate to reach their first ever European final.
The 1961 final was the only time that it had been played over two legs until the competition was merged with the UEFA cup in 1999.
Fiorentina who were managed by Hungarian Nándor Hidegkuti were the recent Coppa Italia winners and had reached the final of the European Cup four years earlier. Their team included many Italian internationals including goalkeeper Enrico Albertosi and Swedish star player Kurt Hamrin.
Rangers were managed by Scott Symon and had reached the semi-final of the European Cup the previous year. The all Scottish Rangers team also included since the start of the 1960-61 season Jim Baxter who would go on to become a legendary figure of the club. Rangers top scorer Jimmy Millar missed the first leg through injury but featured in the return match.