Rangers face Spartak Moscow in the Europa League this evening looking to continue some fine form and put themselves in a strong position in the group. With four points from the first two matches and the performances of the team at Ibrox so far, Rangers go into the match with some confidence. Spartak Moscow sacked their manager at the weekend and have had a poor start to their season. Despite having some key players unavailable, they are still a strong team and represent a real challenge. This article will provide a tactical preview, analysis and statistics as Steven Gerrard looks to lead his team to victory.


Chernomorets (Cup, Away), 1-0 win
Rostov (League, Home), 1-0 defeat
Villarreal (Europa League, Home), 3-3 draw
Yenisey (League, Away), 3-2 win
Arsenal Tula (League, Home), 3-2 defeat


Spartak deploy a 4-3-3 formation, with a very attacking approach to the game. They don’t seem to have changed that approach when playing home or away so far this season. They currently sit seventh in their league after 11 matches, with five wins, three draws and three defeats. They’ve scored 12 league goals and conceded 10, with Ze Luis as top scorer on five. In the Europa League, they lost to Rapid Vienna and drew with Villarreal, leaving them bottom of the group on one point.

Spartak look to dominate matches in terms of possession. Their average of 54.8% is the second highest in their league. They play around 418 passes per match, with players like Fernando, Bochetti and Zobnin seeing most of the ball. Fernando plays in central midfield, often sitting a little deeper, and likes to make passes into the final third quite often. Their long passing rate of 42 per match is low, with goalkeeper Maksimenko responsible for around five of those on average. They will look to play from the back as often as possible.

With the second highest rate of possession, it’s no surprise that Spartak have the second highest number of shots in their league. They manage almost 15 per match, and many of those come from outside the box. Fernando has had more shots on goal than anyone else in their squad, with all 27 of them coming from outside the area. He is regarded as a set-piece specialist and will look to hit direct free-kicks as often as possible.

Most of their crosses come from left back Kombarov, and they play around 15 of those per match. In terms of dribbling, Zobnin seems most prone to running with the ball. Ze Luis has had a high number of touches in the box in his league matches with 36 so far.


As identified by Gerrard in the press conference, it’s very difficult to predict the starting eleven for Spartak. They have rotated the team quite a bit, although there are a few players who would be expected to start. In goal, Maksimenko has become their first choice this season. Bochetti is likely to be one of the centre-halves, with Fernando in midfield just in front of the back four. Kombarov has played most matches at left back but will have a different partner in front of him as Luiz Adriano is suspended.

The squad they have brought to Ibrox doesn’t contain Glushakov or Samadov, and Rocha is injured along with Gigot. Zobnin will most likely start in midfield, and Roman Eremenko has returned to the game after a two-year suspension for drug use. Ze Luis will be the forward, and one to watch as he is very adept in front of goal.


Scott Arfield is missing for Rangers as he hasn’t recovered from his hamstring injury. Jordan Rossiter wasn’t listed in the European squad at the start of the groups. It’s possible he could be added to the B Squad list, but no confirmation of that was provided, either way. Graham Dorrans has had another setback in his fight to get fit and may be missing for a while. Borna Barisic and Ryan Jack are back in contention after recent knocks. Kyle Lafferty also returns to the squad. After some rotation against Hamilton, you’d imagine that Gerrard wants to pick a side as close to the one which played so well to beat Rapid Vienna. Only Arfield is unavailable from that team, opening up a space in midfield.






After a poor performance against Hamilton, Katic is likely to be on the bench again with Worrall starting. Flanagan will come back in at left back instead of Halliday. I suspect Ryan Jack will get the nod in midfield, although McCrorie and Halliday will be in contention there as well. The front three have been in good form and is unlikely to be changed.


It will surprise no one that knows me to learn that I like to play chess as a hobby. One of the central tenets of the game is to assume that your opponent will make the strongest move possible against you. Even in games where you are stronger and know they are prone to mistakes, you should never make a move which relies upon them doing so. In many ways, that’s the approach Rangers need to adapt to this match. Spartak Moscow may not be in great form and have changed their manager. They have left some players out of this match, who may be considered part of their strongest team. In recent matches, they’ve defended poorly and conceded a number of goals. None of that can be considered applicable to the way Gerrard sets his team up tonight. With the ability of the players Spartak can call upon, this will require a very strong Rangers performance to get a positive result. Both sides will create chances and look to be dominant in possession. This match promises to be one played at a high tempo and intensity.

I believe Rangers can edge this one and will win 3-2 on an exciting night.

How do you see the game going? Tweet us @abouttherangers with your thoughts.