Rangers grabbed their first away win in the Premiership on Sunday afternoon against Hamilton Academical but have a more significant challenge waiting on Thursday night against Europa League counterparts Spartak Moskva. Steven Gerrard has led the Gers to make it to the group stage overcoming the obstacles from the very first qualifying round and maintaining an unbeaten streak throughout. They are incredibly leading the Group G ahead of heavyweights Villarreal, Rapid Wien and Spartak Moskva and a win at Ibrox against the Russian counterparts should enhance the odds of Rangers making it to the knockouts.
Spartak have never beaten a Scottish opponent in their European history (D2 L2) whereas the Teddy Bears have only been defeated twice by a Russian/Soviet Union side in 13 meetings altogether. This is the first time they are locking horns with the Red-Whites, and the facts and form should make Gerrard’s men upbeat about stretching their winning streak.
Gerrard must be sweating over the availability of Borna Barisic and Scott Arfield who missed the Accies tie with their respective calf and hamstring strains. Veteran Gareth McAuley seems not to be ready yet and must wait for his debut a little longer. Jamie Murphy is ruled out for the season after suffering an ACL rupture.
Gerrard has mostly preferred a 4-3-3 but tweaked the setup in the past to fit in both Alfredo Morelos and Kyle Lafferty up front. This, however, has not worked out so far and the gaffer must not repeat the same experiment in such a crucial tie.
36-year-old Allan McGregor has been majestic so far between the sticks. He will look to continue his excellence in goal whereas Gerrard might start Joe Worrall in central defence alongside Connor Goldson. Skipper James Tavernier scored a brace from the spot against Hamilton Academical and his overlapping runs, pinpoint crosses, and set-piece skills would be crucial in such a close contest. Jon Flanagan is tipped to start as a left-back if Barisic fails to recover on time.
Ovie Ejaria is in a spectacular form and should be the first name on the teamsheet to start in midfield. Lassana Coulibaly might be preferred over Ryan Jack and Graham Dorrans for his creativity and passing attributes whereas versatile Scott Arfield should occupy a free role in the middle of the park if declared fit. Jordan Rossiter started the Accies game but won’t be involved on Thursday for not being included in Gerrard’s shortlisted squad for Europa League group stage.
Sensational Ryan Kent found the net on Sunday and should look to terrorise the visitors from the left flank. Daniel Candeias is in fine form too, and his link-up down the left with Tavernier brings balance to Rangers’ attack. Alfredo Morelos has notched a goal in each of his last four Ibrox outings and should look to continue his blistering form as the lone centre-forward.
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