Rangers will be aiming to qualify for the next stage of the UEFA Europa League when they take on SC Braga in the second leg of their Round of 32 contest.
Scottish giants Rangers will lock horns with Portuguese outfit Sporting Clube de Braga on Wednesday night at Estadio Municipal de Braga, with a place in the Round of 16 phase of the UEFA Europa League at stake.
The first leg of the Round of 32 stage played at the Ibrox last week saw Rangers mount an unlikely comeback from being 2-0 down to defeat Braga 3-2, courtesy an Ianis Hagi brace and a Joe Aribo goal. Steven Gerrard’s side go into the game with an advantage, but will want to avoid a lapse like the one they had in the 2-2 draw against St. Johnstone at the weekend.
Following the defeat at the hands of Rangers, SC Braga bounced back with a 3-1 win against Vitoria Setubal in the Portuguese top-flight. Ruben Amorim’s Arsenalistas are unbeaten in their last six home games in all competitions and will know that a goal will be enough to see them through to the next round, on the away goal rule, provided they stop the Blues from scoring on the night.
Ahead of this exciting match-up coming our way from Estadio Municipal de Braga, we at The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams;
Team News & Tactics
Defender Wallace came off injured in the first leg against Rangers and having missed the last game against Vitoria Setubal, is unlikely to be involved on Wednesday as well. He joins fellow defender Vitor Tormena on the sidelines, but Nuno Sequeira is expected to return after going off injured on Monday.
Ricardo Esgaio, Joao Palhinha and Raul Silva weren’t involved against Vitoria due to suspension, but ought to return to the squad when Rangers come to town on Wednesday. Head coach Amorim is unlikely to change the 3-4-3 formation that he has used this term with 27-year-old Matheus set to man the goal again.
Bruno Wilson, who scored against Vitoria Setubal, ought to start in place of the injured Wallace. He will be partnered by Bruno Viana and Raul Silva in the three-man backline for Braga. The fit-again Sequeira and Esgaio ought to line up as the wing-backs against Rangers.
The returning Palhinha should slot in as the defensive midfielder for the hosts after missing the last game. Partnering him in the middle of the park should be captain Fransergio.
Ricardo Horta, who also scored in Monday’s fixture, should start on the left flank while Trincao, who will be joining FC Barcelona in the summer, ought to slot in on the right side. Spearheading the attack for Braga on Wednesday night will be top scorer Paulinho.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Matheus; Wilson, Viana, Silva; Esgaio, Palhinha, Fransergio, Sequeira; Trincao, Paulinho, Horta
Rangers left-back Borna Barisic is in line to return after missing the weekend league game due to an injury he picked up against Braga last week. However, the Gers will be without their chief weapon in attack as star striker Alfredo Morelos is suspended for the tie due to accumulation of yellow cards.
Steven Gerrard will also be unable to call upon the services of veteran striker Jermain Defoe while defensive mainstay Filip Helander also remains sidelined for the Scottish giants. The manager is expected to stick with the tried and tested 4-3-3 formation in Portugal on Wednesday.
Veteran goalkeeper Allan McGregor ought to start in goal again for Rangers while captain James Tavernier and the returning Barisic should occupy the full-back slots. Connor Goldson is sure to start at the heart of the defence while Nikola Katic is likely to be trusted again over George Edmundson, despite the former’s poor display at the weekend.
Seasoned campaigner Steven Davis is in line to return at the base of the three-man midfield after sitting out in the last game. Ryan Jack, who was suspended for the first leg, should also walk back into the side for Rangers with the third midfield slot likely to be taken up Scott Arfield.
The versatile Joe Aribo, who has scored nine goals this term, including two in his last two appearances, could get the nod on the left flank, while the star of the first leg, Ianis Hagi should feature on the right side. With no Morelos and Defoe, Florian Kamberi, who impressed in his cameo against St. Johnstone at the weekend, should lead the line for Rangers.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Barisic; Jack, Davis, Arfield; Hagi, Kamberi, Aribo
- Excluding qualifiers, Rangers have not won any of their last 15 European away games (W0 D10 L5), but their last such victory came in Portugal; versus Sporting CP in the 2007-08 UEFA Cup quarter finals (2-0).
- The 2-3 first leg defeat was SC Braga’s first European loss this season after previously winning eight and drawing two of their UEFA Europa League matches in 2019-20 (four qualifiers, six group games).
- Rangers have won nine matches in European competition in 2019-20 so far (including qualification games) – this is a club record in a single season.
- SC Braga are the highest scoring team in the 2019-20 UEFA Europa League, with 17 goals. They also have the joint-best shot conversion ratio in the competition this season (18.5%).
- Rangers have lost just one of their last six European matches away against Portuguese opposition (W2 D3 L1), with this run including a 1-1 draw away at Porto in the group stage this season.
Player to Watch
Arriving on loan from Genk in the January transfer window, Ianis Hagi, son of the legendary Gheorghe, has made an immediate impact at Rangers. The 21-year-old attacking midfielder has already scored three goals and assisted one more in 7 appearances across all competitions for the Scottish heavyweights.
Hagi’s best display till date in a Rangers’ shirt came in the first leg against Braga as he spearheaded the second half comeback for his club, bagging two goals. The Romanian international will be hoping to carry that form forward and fire Rangers into the next round of the competition.
SC Braga 2-2 Rangers
SC Braga are the top scorers in this season’s Europa League and have been in good form of late, especially at home. Having returned to winning ways after the first leg defeat, they will pose a formidable challenge to Rangers’ hopes of making it through to the Round of 16.
Rangers may have pulled off a stirring comeback in the first leg, but defensive lapses have been a major cause of concern for Steven Gerrard of late. Moreover, the absence of leading goalscorer Alfredo Morelos is also likely to have a negative impact on the visitors’ chances.
Another entertaining clash should be on the cards when Braga and Rangers meet in Portugal. There should be a number of goalscoring chances for both the sides on the night and considering the mental strength that Gerrard’s team have shown in the last two games, they should be able to hold the hosts to a 2-2 draw and qualify for the next phase on aggregate score.