After the 2-0 win in the first leg, Rangers face Shkupi in Macedonia looking to finish off the tie. Despite the second goal coming late in the match, Rangers more than deserved the lead they hold. Shkupi will have to approach the match in a very different way. Rangers will try to exploit that and get an early goal to settle any nerves.
FIRST LEG STATISTICS
The first leg saw Rangers try to press high and create chances. Shkupi were happy to sit back and spoil the game. A real illustration of this is in the passing statistics. Of 598 attempted passes, Rangers had 213 in the final third. Shkupi, on the other hand, had only 26 from 324 attempted passes.
The deep defending of the away side meant that Rangers couldn’t play many through passes. Only 9 were attempted, and 2 of those were successful. Of 17 shots on goal, only 1 came from outside the area. 8 attempts were headers, and a couple of those were chances that should have been converted.
One criticism of the team was that the midfield and attack didn’t do enough on the ball. It’s somewhat telling that for all of the possession and passes, the 4 players with the most touches were the defenders who started the match. In the case of Tavernier, you’d expect that. For the other 3, who aren’t as involved further up the pitch, it suggests some of the play was too conservative.
Scott Arfield and Daniel Candeias, in particular, struggled to impose themselves on the game. Arfield had 35 touches in 67 minutes, and Candeias 34 in 56. Their replacements, Jack and Ejaria, both managed 30 in their time on the park. Alfredo Morelos managed only 32 over 90 minutes, a sign of his below average performance and the lack of service to him.
With the team looking to press the match and force mistakes, an interesting statistic is the number of times the ball was won by players in the opposing half. The best performer there was Josh Windass, who did this 7 times in the game. Ross McCrorie got 5, but Arfield and Candeias only managed 1 a piece. Middleton has 6 in his very short appearance, but a lot of those came from one move when he was tackled and winning the ball a few times on the byline.
Surprisingly, the average position of the team on the pitch was higher in the second half compared to the first. It felt at the game that the second half wasn’t as strong in terms of players being in attacking areas. However, the position in the first half was 61.1m, compared to 64.9m in the second half. Shkupi had no real difference in either half, being very deep at 38.9m. Given the need for the Macedonian side to score, it’s very unlikely they’ll look to play so defensively this time.
RANGERS TEAM NEWS
Rumours since Thursday have suggested that Scott Arfield has picked up an injury. At the time of writing, nothing has been confirmed by the club. Ejaria will come into contention after his sub appearance in the first leg. Ryan Jack impressed as well from the bench. No other injuries or issues have been reported.
PREDICTED STARTING LINE UP
In an interview, Gerrard suggested that he was unhappy with how Candeias was playing the role in central midfield during the match. As such, I think Jack will start. Docherty would be a good option to replace Arfield if the latter is injured. However, Ejaria also needs time on the pitch, and offers good ball retention.
The front three will be hoping for more opportunities to get in behind the Shkupi defence. Murphy caused real issues when running at them in the first leg. Morelos and Windass came in for a lot of criticism and certainly missed good chances. Both seem to prefer playing away from Ibrox, so hopefully, they’ll step up in this match. At the moment, Middleton is a better option from the bench than starting.
I expect that Shkupi will come out at a high tempo and try to score early. The two-goal lead for Rangers should see the team feel more comfortable in handling that. The match will give a better indication of how Rangers are defensively at the moment, and I’m confident we’ll see out the tie. I’m going for another 2-0 win for Rangers in this one.