Rangers face Spartak Moscow in the Europa League tonight hoping to continue a fantastic unbeaten run in Europe under Steven Gerrard. The Russian side managed to hold Rangers to a 0-0 draw at Ibrox but will approach this match differently at the Otkritie Arena. Only three points separate the sides from top to bottom of the group. Spartak haven’t had the best run of form in the league of late, but European results at home in recent years tend to be strong. This article is a tactical preview with team news.
SPARTAK RECENT FORM
Arsenal Tula (League, Home), 3-2 defeat
Rangers (Europa League, Away), 0-0 draw
Rubin Kazan (League, Away), 1-1 draw
Anzhi (Cup, Home), 1-0 win
Ural (League, Home), 2-1 defeat
Spartak’s two points in the Europa League have come from draws against Villarreal and Rangers. In the league, they sit sixth, and have won three and lost four matches at home so far.
SPARTAK APPROACH AND POSSIBLE STARTING LINE UP
Spartak are still playing a 4-3-3 under their caretaker manager. Key players Fernando and Ze Luis were unavailable at the weekend due to injury, and their status for this match is unknown. Roman Eremenko is still working his way to match fitness after his two-year ban. Luiz Adriano is available after a three-match suspension in Europe.
In the match at Ibrox, Spartak played to be hard to break down. With only two points so far, they’ll have to be more expansive in matches from now. One statistic that shows the different approach was the number of interceptions Fernando had in midfield. He averages six per match but at Ibrox, his approach meant that he made 13 interceptions. Centre-half Bocchetti had 22 duels to face compared to his average of 15. Ze Luis would normally have around three shots per match but didn’t get one in that game.
Goalkeeper Maksimenko will start the match. He’s kept seven clean sheets this season in 20 appearances both for his club and Russia Under 21s. Bocchetti normally plays at centre-half, and will likely be moved back there to partner Dzikhiya. Kombarov is the usual left back, and at right back, Petkovic normally starts. However, both were replaced by Melgarejo and Rasskazov at Ibrox.
In midfield, Zobnin and Ignatov will most likely play. If Bocchetti is moved back to defence, Timofeev may replace Fernando. Up front, without Ze Luis the central striker will be Luiz Adriano. Out wide, Tashaev and Lomovitski started at Ibrox.
RANGERS TEAM NEWS
Steven Gerrard confirmed that Kyle Lafferty and Borna Barisic haven’t recovered from injury yet. Ryan Kent is also missing with a hamstring issue. With Jordan Rossiter not included in the European squad, there’s no one back in contention who missed out last time.
Ryan Jack has come back into the team of late, as has Andy Halliday. The latter may start at left back, but I suspect Flanagan will be brought back into the side. Dapo Mebude was pictured training with the first team and may make the bench with so many attacking options unavailable. Gareth McAuley is also considered fit and hoping to push his way into the squad.
PREDICTED STARTING LINE UP
There are a few positions that are difficult to call there. In European matches, Gerrard has seemed to prefer the midfield three of Coulibaly, Ejaria and Arfield. In this match, he may go a little more defensive. It’s also felt that Coulibaly is a little off-form, so he may drop out for Jack. I’ve included Katic instead of Worrall, and that’s based only on a feeling and nothing more. Grezda is likely to start in place of Kent, although Middleton may have a chance.
The only other potential consideration may be Halliday wide left in front of Flanagan if the team decides to play a bit more defensively.
When you look at the results Spartak have managed at home in Europe, you can see this is a very difficult match in prospect. Any sort of positive result for Rangers would put them in a great position in the group with two games to go. With the issues Spartak have in terms of injuries and form, I suspect they won’t be as strong as they could be. The same applies in many ways to Rangers, however. The pressure would seem to be on the home side, and Rangers will be hoping to take advantage of that.
I’m going to predict a 1-1 draw on the night, but one that requires a good amount of luck for Rangers.
How do you see the game going? Tweet us @abouttherangers with your thoughts.