Rangers face Osijek tonight in the second leg of their Europa League Qualifier 2nd Round. With a 1-0 lead from the away leg, the Ibrox side are in a strong position, but there’s still plenty of work to be done. Osijek have been bullish in their statements, bolstered by a 4-1 win in their opening league match against Hajduk Split. Rangers have been aware that their performance in the first leg could be improved upon, and are looking to play much better at home. It’s an interesting match, with plenty to look forward to.
FIRST LEG STATISTICS
When you look at the statistics from the first leg, it’s easy to see why Osijek believed they were the better team. They had more possession, 14 shots to Rangers 2, and played much higher up the pitch. Rangers saw a significant dip in performance in the 2nd half of that match, with passes dropping from 202 at 87% accuracy to only 89 at 66% accuracy. There was no doubt Osijek had the better of the play, but they couldn’t score, and it’s left them chasing the match.
Despite the dip in passing numbers in the second half, Rangers had more final third entries during the second period (37) than they did in the first half (24). Too often, the pass was incorrect or the ball not retained high up the pitch enough. What that does suggest is that when Osijek come out to chase a game, there is space to be found on the break. Tonight, that will be key.
In terms of individual performances, there were a few noteworthy statistics. Morelos, Jack, Flanagan, and Kent won the ball more often than any other Rangers players. Surprisingly, Coulibaly was credited with only 2 recoveries in the match, showing that statistics don’t always capture how a player influenced a game.
Ovie Ejaria only lost the ball once, and misplaced one pass, over 78 minutes. He was the most secure in possession for Rangers, and that may be key tonight. Whilst Ryan Jack misplaced the most passes, he also had far more than any other Rangers player.
The most duels in the first leg came between Morelos and Loncar. The defender won 6, Morelos won 5, and 3 were deemed neutral. Given the nature of the match, that was a great performance by Morelos.
OSIJEK TEAM NEWS
Osijek have the same injuries as in the first leg. Gabrijel Boban, Muzafer Ejupi, and Eros Grezda all miss out. Borna Barisic at left back will be the main threat, with Nigerian striker Henty also one to watch.
The manager and players of Osijek have been very vocal in their belief that they’re the better side. With the need to score at least once, they’ll approach the game no differently from the first leg. With that in mind, I’d expect a similar line up to how they finished the match, with Bockaj on the right providing a real threat on that side.
RANGERS TEAM NEWS
Rangers go into this match with a strong squad. Injuries to Dorrans, Rossiter, John, and Wallace are still keeping them out, but Arfield is fit enough to return. Looking at the players available, there’s a real chance Greg Docherty and Glenn Middleton may miss out altogether from the 18 selected.
It’s certain that the back 4 will be the same, but there may be some changes in midfield or out wide. Arfield could come in for Ejaria, although a lot will depend on how fit he is. Daniel Candeias played well in the friendly against Wigan. He may be considered a good option to try and nullify the threat of the Osijek left back. I suspect the starting team may be the same as the first leg, but those changes are possible.
PREDICTED STARTING LINE UP
I can’t lie, this one has me nervous. Despite looking very strong defensively and having that away goal, there was enough from Osijek to suggest they offer a real threat. Some nerves would be settled by an early goal, but it wouldn’t change much from the point of view of the opposition. They’ll be looking to score twice, and will take some risks.
I think it will be a nervy night, where Rangers will win 1-0 and get through to the next round.