Rangers Spartak Moscow Europa League Tactical Preview

Rangers face Aberdeen tonight in a huge match for the battle for second place. With Aberdeen a point ahead, and Hibs only 2 behind, it’s vital that Rangers get a result at Pittodrie. Given everything that’s been going on, that’s easier said than done.

ABERDEEN LEAGUE FORM

Aberdeen are 2nd in the league on 69 points. They’ve scored 54 goals and conceded 36. Of their points, 36 have come at home, and 33 away. They’ve only lost 4 matches at Pittodrie all season.

Their top goalscorer this season is Adam Rooney with 8 goals. In terms of assists, Stevie May and Ryan Christie have 5. O’Connor has played in every league match for them, with Logan and McLean only missing 1.

ABERDEEN LAST 5 LEAGUE RESULTS

Motherwell (away), 2-0 win
Hearts (away), 2-0 defeat
Kilmarnock (away), 2-0 win
Hearts (home), 2-0 win
Hibernian (home), 0-0 draw

As you can see, Aberdeen haven’t been conceding a lot of goals in recent league matches. They did, however, lose the Scottish Cup semi-final 3-0 to Motherwell. Rangers have taken all 9 points available against Aberdeen so far this season.

TEAM NEWS AND LIKELY SELECTION

This can be tricky, because McInnes is prone to squad rotation. Surprisingly, there’s conflicting news on players like Mackay-Steven and McGinn. Kenny McLean returns from suspension, though, and Nwakali is available again.

Aberdeen are likely to play the 4-2-3-1 they prefer. Christie started on the bench against Hibs, but I’d be surprised if he isn’t in the starting line-up this time. Similarly, Considine has been on the bench but I think he may start as well. O’Connor and McKenna will be in central defence, with Shinnie partnering McLean in midfield. Greg Stewart may come back into the side, and Rooney could replace Cosgrove up front.

ABERDEEN STATISTICS

Aberdeen average around 51% possession in matches. They look to play in a direct, physical style, where long balls and set pieces are dangerous. They now have the second best defensive record in the league, but have conceded 10 goals to headers, which is strange given the height and strength in their squad.

In terms of shots on goal, they’ll average over 12 per 90 minutes. McLean and Christie are the highest they have for overall shots on goal. Of their 17 crosses per match, the majority come from the left. It’s the attacking players like McLean and Mackay-Steven on that side, whilst Logan gets most crosses in from the right. They have around 67% success with 1v1 dribbling, and are about average in the league overall in that regard.

Their numbers for defensive duels are interesting. They win around 23%, which is a decent number, but players like O’Connor, Considine and McKenna are all well under 30%. Usually, defenders would be a good bit higher. They’re second only to Motherwell for aerial duels, and O’Connor wins 72% of those.

They allow 6.75 passes per defensive action, and have conceded 441 fouls. Shinnie is one of the highest offenders in the league, having been booked 13 times this season. He has also been involved in more defensive duels than any other player in the league at 378.

THE LONG BALL GAME

Aberdeen play 57 long passes per match, more than anyone else in the league. By way of perspective, Rangers average 48. Players like Rooney and Cosgrove are used up front to win headers and try to hold the ball up. Joe Lewis in goals will always look to kick it long, as will their defenders. Even in midfield, Kenny McLean faces a lot of aerial duels, more than many central defenders.

If Russell Martin starts the match, there’s a good chance Aberdeen will look to target him. He has won only 55% of his aerial duels overall, and that number was at 29% last time against Aberdeen. The presence of Bates will be vital in this match.

EXPECTED RANGERS APPROACH

Rangers are hoping that both Cummings and Windass are fit for this match, but I don’t expect either to start. Foderingham, John and Jack are still unavailable. With the crowd fired up, Aberdeen will be looking to have a real go in this match. Rangers need to match the physical battle while finding ways to create more chances than they did against Kilmarnock. McCrorie must have played himself into the team in midfield, and will be key.

In the wide areas, Candeias and Murphy will hope to have a bigger impact. Logan can be caught out defensively at right back. Aberdeen also seem to prefer a centre-half at left back, which Candeias can stretch. I believe Morelos has to start this match, as his physical presence will be a huge plus.

PREDICTED STARTING LINE UP

Alnwick

Tavernier
Bates
Martin
Halliday

Holt
McCrorie
Dorrans

Candeias
Morelos
Murphy

I would like to see Docherty and Goss in place of Holt and Dorrans, but I think the experience of the latter pairing will win out.

PREDICTIONS

If you consider current form, confidence, stability and even just the law of averages, things would seem to point to an Aberdeen win. However, they do tend to play within themselves in big matches, and as such, I think Rangers will win 2-1.

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