After the loss against Celtic before the international break, Rangers were back to winning ways with a bang, as they put four past Dundee United at the weekend in the domestic league. But it is now time for Steven Gerrard’s men to reap the benefits of an impressive qualifying campaign in Europe. The Gers will play their first group stage game of the Europa League this season when they travel to Estadio de la Cerámica on Thursday.
Spanish outfit Villarreal, who have won just one of their first four league games, are Rangers’ first test back in Europe. Steven Gerrard would hope that his side can make a statement in this game. Taking points from this trip to Spain can also boost their confidence, going into the rest of the league campaign. The manager will settle for nothing less than three points and here is the predicted lineup he might field for this tie:
In early team news, Gareth McAuley, Ryan Jack and Jamie Murphy are all but ruled out for this tie. Jordan Rossiter and Lee Wallace are both excluded from the Europa League squad and will not be available for selection. Graham Dorrans is also doubtful for this game while both Alfredo Morelos and Jon Flanagan remain suspended for this European tie.
Expected lineup (4-3-3):
Allan McGregor has been effective on goal for Rangers this season and could prove hard to beat for the hosts in this tie. Connor Goldson and Nikola Katic have been impressive as a duo at the back. But both players will have a tough time against the likes of Carlos Bacca and Karl Toko-Ekambi in this game.
Borna Barisic has had a mixed start to the season but remains the best option for Gerrard at left-back for this game. James Tavernier, who scored one of the four goals for his side at the weekend, should keep his place at right-back against Villarreal.
Lassana Coulibaly started the scoring against Dundee on Saturday and will hope to put in a similar performance in this tie as well. He will start alongside Ovie Ejaria as the duo would look to add some creativity to the midfield. Scott Arfield should get his chance in the middle of the park, adding some balance to the Rangers side.
With Morelos out suspended, Kyle Lafferty is expected to lead the line for Rangers in this tie. Ryan Kent also scored in the 4-0 win at the weekend and deserves to start this game on the left flank. Daniel Candeias is slowly finding some form and could start on the right side.
Here is how they might line up:
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