Rangers face Ufa in the second leg of the Europa League Qualifying Playoff Round today at 3 pm. Holding a 1-0 lead from the game at Ibrox, the match will be a nervous one for the team and fans alike. When considering the European run, most would have been happy to make this round before the season started. Now that we’re here, it will feel like a massive disappointment if Ufa are the first team Gerrard loses to as a manager.
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM THE FIRST LEG
At Ibrox, it was clear Ufa were a defensively organised side who were willing to put everyone behind the ball. Even when losing by a goal, their ambition was clear. An example of that was the use of Paurevic as their most advanced player. He generally plays in midfield, and often as a defensive midfielder. In the first leg, he was the player Ufa asked to hold up the ball furthest up the pitch.
This makes it all the more difficult to judge just how good Ufa are. This season, they hold a record of 2 wins, 4 draws and 4 defeats from 10 matches. One of those wins was their home leg against Progres. They lost 2-0 to Zenit at home on Sunday, having made a few changes to the team. They’ve scored 8 goals in those 10 matches, with 5 of those coming in the European games. With the way they set up in general, you wouldn’t imagine they score a lot of goals. This is the first of their European matches where they’re being asked to chase a deficit from the start. It means there’s no recent frame of reference to judge just how they’ll approach it.
Paurevic will be someone Rangers need to look out for in terms of attacking threat. He’s known for scoring goals from distance, and it’s likely he could be playing his more natural role in this match. Igboun will be a threat with his pace and direct style as well. Ondrej Vanek may start this time as they look to have more of a threat.
So in reality, we didn’t learn an awful lot about Ufa in the first leg. That adds to the nerves and tension Rangers fans feel going into this match.
RANGERS TEAM NEWS
Rangers will be without Lassana Coulibaly for this match as his injury continues to hold him back. Other absentees include Barisic, Murphy, Rossiter, and Dorrans. Even with Kyle Lafferty in the squad, there’s not a lot of options for rotation of the team. Alfredo Morelos will look to continue his good form up front, and it’s very likely Daniel Candeias will be back in the side.
With Ufa playing on an artificial surface, there are concerns about injuries given the upcoming match on Sunday. It’s a risk, but not one Rangers can make any decisions based upon before the match. I expect the starting line-up to be the same as it was in the first leg. The only potential change I can see is Kyle Lafferty starting wide instead of Ryan Kent, but I suspect the Northern Irish striker will be used from the bench.
PREDICTED STARTING LINE UP
With so much unknown, and the way Rangers defended against Motherwell, there are fears held by the fans about this one. In the past, early kick-offs in Europe haven’t gone well. Add a plastic pitch to that, and it’s going to be a nervous afternoon for many.
I suspect Rangers will have enough to get through this tie. An away goal would really put pressure on Ufa who would then require three to go through. The match against Motherwell wasn’t indicative of how the team have defended so far. At some point, Ufa needs to chase this game, and Rangers will look to pick them off when they do.
I’m going to predict a 1-1 draw in this match. How do you see it going?