Rangers might have fallen behind Celtic in the Premiership race, but the only flagbearers of Scotland in Europe are gearing up for another stern test on Thursday night against Red Star Belgrade. These two sides would lock horns at Ibrox for the Europa League round of 16’s first leg fixture and the Gers, under Giovanni van Bronckhorst, must aim for all three points to be in the driver’s seat before travelling to Serbia.
While the Light Blues eliminated mighty Borussia Dortmund from the Knockout round play-offs, the Serbian heavyweights progressed through to the round of 16 directly as the group winners. Their last meeting took place back in 2007 in the Champions League qualifiers, and the Scottish giants clinched an edgy win when Nacho Novo scored a late winner at Ibrox.
Predicted 4-2-3-1 Rangers Lineup To Face Red Star Belgrade
Although he was tested little between the sticks, back to back clean sheets against St Johnstone and Aberdeen should uplift Allan McGregor’s confidence after a dreadful display against Motherwell last month.
Leon Balogun’s return from injury is a massive boost and the veteran Nigerian is expected to start alongside Connor Goldson in the heart of the backline. Skipper James Tavernier must replicate his Borussia Dortmund heroics from the right, whereas young Calvin Bassey deserves the nod over Borna Barisic as the left fullback.
Van Bronckhorst is preferring a double pivot in the recent outings which also offers the flexibility of tweaking the midfield setup attuning to the demands of the game. Ryan Jack is back again and his presence deep down the pitch adds more strength to their defensive game. John Lundstram would be the driving force with his down the middle runs, also the experience of Scott Arfield must be utilized down the right-hand side. Joe Aribo has settled as an attacking playmaker with his work ethic and creative spark, however, the pace, flair and directness of Ryan Kent should trouble the visitors most down the left-hand flank.
Aaron Ramsey is back in the Rangers squad, but the gaffer might not hand him an instant first-team status. Glen Kamara, Scott Wright, James Sands and Fashion Sakala would be there as well to stake a claim in Van Bronckhorst’s plan.
Alfredo Morelos was below par against the Dons, but his scintillating scoring form in Europe makes him the definite choice for the ‘number 9’ role. Kemar Roofe scored a late winner on Saturday afternoon and the ex-Leeds United star should get involved once again as a second-half substitute.