Scottish Premiership champions Rangers host Slavia Prague within the second leg of their Europa League last-16 tie on Thursday night, hoping to accomplish the quarter-finals for the first time in 13 years. The clash at Ibrox is perfectly poised for another entertaining encounter between two sides who both remain undefeated in their respective leagues this season. An important away goal scored by Filip Helander helped Rangers recover to draw 1-1 away within the European country last week, after Nicolae Stanciu scored an early opener.
Slavia Prague dominated for long spells against Steven Gerrard’s side but lacked a innovation within the ultimate third. Nonetheless, it took a sensational acrobatic save from 39-year-old Allan McGregor within the dying embers of the game to earn the Gers a score to draw in the Prag.
That result saw Rangers preserve their 12-match unbeaten run against continental opposition and after having last weekend to rest and steel oneself against what’s now the biggest match of their season, Gerrard’s men are visiting be stuffed with confidence as they offer the impression of being to book their place in Friday’s quarter-final draw for the first time since 2007-08.
Gerrard has stated that there is “no harm in dreaming” of going all the away within the Europa League, but he isn’t getting frenzied and has reiterated how challenging the second leg are visiting be against Slavia, who eliminated Premier League outfit Leicester City within the last round. Rangers, who have lost just one of their last 23 home matches in European competitions, have progressed from seven of their last eight knockout ties when avoiding defeat within the primary leg.
Should the Gers progress from the last 16, Gerrard will become the third English manager to realize the quarter-finals and beyond within the Europa League, after Roy Hodgson in 2009-10 with Fulham and Alan Pardew in 2012-13 with Newcastle United.
The last English manager to reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League or the UEFA Cup with a non-English side was also Hodgson with Inter Milan, who finished as runners-up back in 1996-97. Rangers have won each of their previous three home matches against Czech opposition, last against Viktoria Zizkov within the UEFA Cup in October 2002. However, having lost within the round of 16 last season against Bayer Leverkusen, the Gers are visiting be hoping to avoid successive eliminations at this stage and claim their 21st victory at Ibrox this campaign, to remain their chances of a historic league and European cup double alive.
Slavia Prague prepared for this Thursday’s second leg with a convincing 3-0 persuade Mlada Boleslav within the Czech top-flight last weekend. A brace from Stanciu helped the Cervenobili move 14 points clear at the best of the league and, like Rangers, they still be unbeaten in their march towards the title, mirroring the Glaswegian side as they have raced aloof from their city rivals Sparta.
Jindrich Trpisovsky’s team proved yet again that they are to not be underestimated after a battling performance against the Gers within the primary leg and despite conceding an away goal, they are going to be confident of pulling off another impressive result against one altogether Europe’s most in-form sides.
However, the challenge of defeating such a rampant Rangers outfit at Ibrox goes to be difficult because the Gers have won 95.4% of their home matches to the present point this season, conceding just nine goals within the method. Slavia Prague has never played in Glasgow before but has lost both of their previous two away matches in European competitions against Scottish opponents, losing within the UEFA Cup to St Mirren in 1985-86 and Hearts in 1992-93.
Slavia achieved a historic 6-5 aggregate win against Europa League specialists Sevilla during the 2018-19 campaign at this stage of the competition, and know that they need to realize at Ibrox if they’re to have any chance of progressing everywhere again to the last eight.
Steven Gerrard confirmed that midfielder Ryan Jack, who was unavailable for the clash in Prague last week, is an injury doubt for the second leg. If the 29-year-old is fit enough to form the matchday squad, then he’s likely to start on the bench. Gers forward Kemar Roofe was available for selection last week, after previously stricken by a calf problem and after starting on the bench against Slavia, he could also be handed a start upfront ahead of Ianis Hagi.
Club captain James Tavernier remains out injured but defender Leon Balogun is back from suspension and is in contention to feature, although the Nigerian is predicted to start out out on the bench with Nathan Patterson to continue at right-back and Connor Goldson partnering Filip Helander within the center of the defense.
Slavia Prague boss Jindrich Trpisovsky is hoping to possess winger Peter Olayinka available for the second leg on Thursday and will he recover in time, then the visitors may name an unchanged starting lineup from the first leg. Attacking midfielder Nicolae Stanciu, who is prepared to start out out once more on Thursday, is one player Rangers must keep an eye fixed fixed on.
The Romanian is currently in fine form, scoring six goals in his last four games altogether competitions, including an excellent strike within the primary leg. Striker Jan Kuchta – who has scored 13 goals in 25 appearances in all competitions – was rested last weekend and is predicted to return to the starting XI at the expense of forward Stanislav Tecl, who recently scored four goals in an exceedingly 10-3 Czech Cup victory earlier this month.
Rangers possible starting lineup:
McGregor; Patterson, Goldson, Helander, Barisic; Kamara, Davies, Aribo; Roofe, Morelos, Kent
Slavia Prague possible starting lineup:
Kolar; Bah, Kudela, Zima, Boril; Holes, Provod; Sima, Stanciu, Olayinka; Kuchta
We pick: Rangers 2-1 Slavia Prague
Slavia Prague has proved in recent seasons that they’ll compete against stronger opposition and are set to create it another difficult evening for Rangers this Thursday.
However, after having the weekend off, the Gers are going to be well-rested and fully prepared for this clash at Ibrox, where they need been formidable throughout this campaign.
A tight encounter is to be expected, one that would even move to beyond regular time, but Gerrard’s men should have enough quality to edge themselves into the quarter-finals.