Rangers play their first match at Ibrox in the Europa League Group Stage since 2006 as they face Rapid Vienna tonight. The Austrian side have made a poor start to their league campaign which resulted in a change of manager at the weekend. With only nine points from their first nine matches, they would be seen as struggling by many. However, they won convincingly against Spartak Moscow in their first group match, so clearly they have the ability. The changes make the challenge all the more interesting for Gerrard and his team. This article is a tactical preview with statistics to provide some information on the Europa League opponents.
RAPID VIENNA RECENT FORM
Austria Vienna (League, Home), 1-0 defeat
Spartak Moscow (Europa League, Home), 2-0 win
Salzburg (League, Away), 2-1 defeat
Mattersburg (Cup, Away), 1-1 draw
St Polten (League, Home), 2-0 defeat
RAPID VIENNA APPROACH AND STATISTICS
In recent matches, Rapid have played something of a 4-2-3-1 system. Richard Strebinger has been their first-choice goalkeeper, with Sonnleitner and Barac at centre-half. Potzmann and Muldur have been used in the full-back positions. In midfield, Schwab and Ljubicic have played most often centrally. Ivan and Murg have played in the wide areas, and Knasmullner has sat behind Alar up front.
It’s worth noting, though, that the new coach seems to prefer a 3-5-2 or 5-4-1. With little time to work with the squad so far, it’s hard to imagine they’ll change too much straight away. It’s something that they may look to implement straight away though. In many ways, this game isn’t one with huge pressure to win for Rapid.
Rapid have scored nine goals and conceded ten in their nine league matches. However, their expected goals rate is 15, and expected against is 16. They’ve looked to win possession, averaging around 58% so far. As such, they play a number of passes, with 477 attempted and an accuracy of 83% every 90 minutes. For every minute of possession, they play 9.4 passes. Long passes seem to come from their midfielders and are only at 46 per match. Schwab is the player to play most of those, and also their main passer to the final third. They’ll look to him to get balls over the top and turn the Rangers defence.
They’ve hit 112 shots in their nine matches, with 34% on target. Ivan out wide has hit the most with 17 overall. Knasmullner has hit most from outside the box, suggesting he likes to find space in that part of the pitch. They average 11 crosses per match, and both flanks are pretty close in terms of ratio. In terms of dribbling, Murg has attempted 70 dribbles, with the second highest being Ivan with 40.
Defensively, they allow around 13 shots per match against them. They have a good record in defensive duels, winning 25% of 625 so far. The full-backs have faced most of those so far. In aerial duels, they win around 43%, with Barac winning over 63% of his duels there. Interestingly, Ivan has been involved in the second highest amount in their squad despite playing wide.
One big difference between Rapid and the side their new manager came from (St Polten) is in passes per defensive action. Rapid would only allow teams to play eight passes on average before pressing or winning the ball back, whilst Polten would allow 13. If the new manager looks to impose his style straight away, they may be a bit more conservative than usual at Ibrox.
RANGERS TEAM NEWS
Ryan Jack is back in full training and may be involved in the squad. The team came through the Livingston match with no injuries, meaning Gerrard has a strong squad to pick from. The poor performance in that match will no doubt see some changes to the team. It’s likely Ryan Kent will come back into the starting XI. In midfield, McCrorie may be an option to change the balance of the three. Katic is likely to take his place in the defence instead of Worrall. Jon Flanagan and Alfredo Morelos are back from their suspension so will be eager to play.
PREDICTED STARTING LINE UP
There’s a chance Barisic will keep his place at left back, but I believe Flanagan will come in. Ejaria may start in midfield, although I’d be surprised if McCrorie doesn’t come in or even Ryan Jack if he’s considered fit enough. Out wide, Grezda will be pushing to be involved, and will hopefully get on from the bench.
This one is tricky to call. All the changes at Rapid Vienna make it difficult to know how focused they’ll be on this game. After a good win against Spartak Moscow, they have little to lose and can play with a bit of freedom. Rangers will be looking to respond after the Livingston defeat, and the statistics suggest Rapid are capable of going forward but they are loose in defence. With the home crowd behind them, I feel that Rangers will edge this match 2-1.
How do you see it going? Tweet us @abouttherangers with your thoughts.