Rangers will host Portuguese heavyweights Braga at Ibrox in the first leg of the round of 32 fixture of the Europa League. Braga topped their group and are yet to lose a game in the Europa this season. They have won four of their last five games in the league.
Gerrard’s men have huffed and puffed since the winter break, and they are looking far from their best. However, this is the kind of night that Rangers can decide to step up and bring their season back on track. Here are three things which Rangers need to do to have a positive result.
Keeping Braga’s exciting forward line under check
Nikola Katic and Connor Goldson haven’t covered themselves in glory on the back of their recent performances. Braga’s front three of Francisco Trincao, Paulinho and Ricardo Horta can give them a real threat. Galeno is another one who can start in the front three.
Trincao has already agreed on a move (Talk Sport) to Barcelona in the summer, and the Spanish giants are spending £26m on him. That should be enough testament to his qualities. Trincao is technically strong, and his pace could cause a lot of trouble to the Rangers defence. Paulinho is the main striker for them, and he seems to possess the instincts of a top forward.
Braga scored 15 goals in their six group games, and they like to play on the front foot. Rangers don’t usually get tested like this in the Premiership, and it would be a big task for them to keep a clean sheet.
Stretching the game and allowing Kent to be more on the wings
Gerrard has often used his wide players as attacking midfielders this season. Kent is at his best when he gets a chance to isolate defenders in the wide region. Think of the goal he assisted for Ryan Jack in Gerrard’s first derby win. When Kent takes more central positions, he often has to pass and move or try to link up play which is not his strongest suit. Hence, he should be allowed to stretch the game on the left instead of being instructed to attack central areas at every opportunity.
Pressing smartly to have the threat on the counter
Rangers have done well in Europe under Gerrard, and one of the reasons for that is they come up against oppositions that aren’t afraid to take them on. It is fair to say that the Bears are better when they play against teams that have a proper go at them. The game against Braga could be similar, and Rangers can be threatening in transition. To have that threat in transition or on the counter, Rangers will have to press well and win the ball back to turn it over quickly. Steven Davis will have to play a crucial role in midfield with Ryan Jack being out.
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