Rangers will be aiming to book a place in the group stages of the UEFA Europa League, when they take on Galatasaray in the play-off round.

Scottish giants Rangers will lock horns with Turkish heavyweights Galatasaray at the Ibrox Stadium on Thursday night, as a place in the group stage of the UEFA Europa League awaits the winner.

Steven Gerrard’s Gers have made a strong start to the season, going unbeaten in 11 matches in all competitions in 2020/21. Currently top of the Scottish Premiership table, the Light Blues have been brilliant in Europe as well, beating Lincoln Red Imps 5-0 in the second qualifying round, before thrashing Willem II 4-0 in the subsequent stage.

Rangers head into the crunch clash on Thursday night high on confidence after thrashing Motherwell 5-1 in the Premiership. However, Galatasaray will represent their toughest challenge till date this season.

Indeed, the Turkish outfit are also unbeaten in their five matches across all competitions this season. Fatih Terim’s men eased past Neftci (3-1) and Hajduk Split (2-0) in the second and third qualifying rounds of the Europa League and head into the game on the back of a goalless draw against Fenerbahce.

This will be just the third competitive meeting between Rangers and Galatasaray. And ahead of this exciting match-up coming our way from the Ibrox, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Rangers

Rangers have been handed an injury boost heading into the game with midfielder Ryan Jack back to full fitness and available for selection. Brandon Barker is also back in contention for the Gers, who will, however, be without the services of Joe Aribo, Kemar Roofe and long-term absentee Nikola Katic. New signing Cedric Itten is also a doubt.

Gerrard is unlikely to make many changes to the side that started in the weekend win against Motherwell. That would mean the hosts will set up in a 4-3-3 formation in front of veteran goalkeeper Allan McGregor on Thursday night.

Captain James Tavernier, who scored a double at the weekend, should continue at right-back, but there could be a possible change on the left, with Borna Barisic coming in for summer signing Calvin Bassey. Connor Goldson and Filip Helander should line up at the heart of the Rangers’ defence, with Leon Balogun an option from the bench.

In spite of Jack’s return to full fitness, Gerrard is likely to ease him into action, meaning former Burnley man Scott Arfield should continue in the centre of the park, alongside veteran midfielder Steven Davis and Glen Kamara, who is likely to slot in as the deepest of the three.

Ianis Hagi, whose loan transfer was made permanent earlier this summer, is a certainty on the right flank, while ex-Liverpool man Ryan Kent is a permanent fixture on the left. Spearheading the Rangers’ attack on Thursday will be ace goalscorer Alfredo Morelos, with veteran Englishman Jermain Defoe providing cover from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic; Davis, Kamara, Arfield; Hagi, Morelos, Kent

Galatasaray

Galatasaray manager Fatih Terim has insisted that he will be fielding his strongest possible XI at the Ibrox, after having slightly weakened teams in the previous two rounds. However, he will have to make do without the services of experienced goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, along with Marcelo Saracchi and Emre Akbaba.

Gala are expected to line up in a 4-1-4-1 formation on Thursday night, with Fatih Ozturk guarding the goal in the absence of Muslera. Omar Elabdellaoui should get the nod at right-back, while Martin Linnes should feature on the left. Christian Luyindama ought to pair up with Marcao at the centre of the visitors’ backline against Rangers.

Taylan Antalyali is expected to provide cover to the backline from the centre of the park. Younes Belhanda, who scored in the previous qualifying round, and Emre Kilinc should take up the more attacking roles in midfield and look to provide support in the final third of the pitch.

Sofiane Feghouli and Gerrard’s former Liverpool teammate Ryan Babel will provide the creative essence from the flanks, with ex-Barcelona star Arda Turan not being a part of the squad for the game. Leading the Turkish giants’ attack should be veteran striker Radamel Falcao, who hasn’t started either of their European fixtures.

Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Ozturk; Elabdellaoui, Luyindama, Marcao, Linnes; Antalyali; Feghouli, Belhanda, Kilinc, Babel; Falcao

Key Stats

  • Rangers and Galatasaray have played each other just twice in the past – in the group stages of the 2000/01 UEFA Champions League. Galatasaray beat the Gers 3-2 at home, before playing out a goalless draw in Glasgow.
  • Steven Gerrard’s men have played 11 games in the 2020/21 season in all competitions and have won nine of those fixtures, while losing none (D2).
  • Galatasaray, too, are without a defeat in the new campaign, having won four of their five matches across all competitions (D1).
  • Steven Gerrard has managed 18 UEFA Europa League qualifying matches with Rangers till date and is yet to lose a single one of those (W12 D6).
  • In their last five fixtures in all competitions, Rangers have scored an impressive 20 goals, while conceding just three, keeping three clean sheets in the process.

Player to Watch

Radamel Falcao

Radamel Falcao's experience will be key for Galatasaray (Photo by Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images)

Radamel Falcao’s experience will be key for Galatasaray (Photo by Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images)

He may be 34 years old, but Radamel Falcao remains a potent force in attack. Having joined Galatasaray last summer, the Colombian international has netted 14 goals in just 25 appearances. Three of those 14 goals have come in the 2020/21 campaign, giving an indication of the form he is in heading into Thursday’s clash.

Falcao is yet to feature in the Europa League this term. Having won the trophy twice in his career – once each with FC Porto and Atletico Madrid, the 34-year-old’s experience and proven pedigree will come in handy for the Turkish giants as they look to navigate a tricky fixture in Scotland.

Prediction

Rangers 3-2 Galatasaray

Both teams are yet to lose a single game this season and are in good rhythm heading into the midweek clash, making this one difficult to call. However, Rangers have been in unstoppable form in front of goal of late. This, coupled with the fact that they will be playing at home, might give them the slightest of advantages.

There should be goals on offer in this one, with the match likely to go down to the wire. The Gers, though, should have enough to just about snatch a victory and knock their Turkish opponents out. The Hard Tackle is predicting a 3-2 win for Steven Gerrard & co.

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