Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Prediction: Rangers vs Osijek

Verdict: Over 2.5 goals scored – yes

Best Odds: 11/8

Bookmaker: 888sport

The second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League will be decided this Thursday and a Scottish side will decide their fate. We are talking about Rangers, as Steven Gerrard’s men will look to take another step towards reaching the Group Stage when they host Osijek at Ibrox Stadium. Kick-off is scheduled at 19:45 BST. Dennis Higler (NED) will be the referee.

Rangers

Rangers won the first leg of this tie, so they are in good shape heading into the second leg. The Scottish Premiership side had a tough time in Croatia – as it is always difficult to play on the road there – but came through with a huge 1-0 win thanks to a close-range header from Alfredo Morelos. However, Rangers have not completed their work yet. The one-goal differential is quite slim, and Rangers must treat this game as if they didn’t have a goal advantage in the first place. Otherwise, they will risk getting complacent and that is something that Gerrard can’t allow to happen. But so far, the Scottish has looked very good during the Europa League’s qualifying run. They dispatched Shkupi with a 2-0 aggregate score, and now are only 90 minutes away from taking another step towards the Group Stage. Can they complete the task with the support of their fans and the advantage of playing at home?

Team News

Scott Arfield has rejoined the Rangers squad ahead of Thursday’s Europa League showdown with Osijek following his knee injury.

However, Declan John (back), Lee Wallace (groin), Jordan Rossiter (ankle) and Graham Dorrans (knee) remain out. Umar Sadiq is unlikely to feature while still short on fitness.

Osijek

Osijek might have lost the first leg… but don’t tell their manager that. Osijek’s Robert Mudrazija claimed his side were “better, stronger, more skilful and better organised” despite losing the first leg 1-0. But now they will have to show it because there is no tomorrow for Osijek if they don’t win this game. The Croatian side has not been very impressive during their Europa League campaign so far. Even though they defeated Moldovan side FC Petrocub Hîncești in the earlier round, they were far from convincing and needed a 2-1 home win to secure the spot in the current stage following a 1-1 away draw in the first leg. It seems Osijek have everything against them in this tie, but the team’s morale is at the top right now heading into this match. And not just because the manager said so. Osijek defeated Hadjuk Split – one of the biggest teams in Croatia – by a 4-1 score this past weekend in the opening matchday of the Croatian Prva Liga. Can they carry that momentum into this game to pull the upset against Rangers?

Team News

Osijek appear to be at full strength ahead of this game.

This includes influential midfielder Haris Hajradinovic, who continues to work on his way back from injury. Expect him to play a bigger role in this game after being restricted to just 10 minutes in the first leg.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Rangers are currently undefeated in the UEFA Europa League. So far, they have registered two wins and one draw, and they won their only match at home thus far.
  • Osijek have been far less convincing during the EL’s qualifying rounds. They have a W1, D1, L1 record, and drew their only away match (1-1 against Petrocub).
  • All of three Rangers’ Europa League matches this season have ended with under 2.5 goals. Two of Osijek’s three matches have had the same outcome.
  • Rangers are undefeated in their last five matches dating back to last season, with two wins and three draws over that span.
  • Maribor (Slovenia) or Chikhura Sachkhere (Georgia) await the winners of the tie in the third qualifying round.

Conclusion

This will be an open game, no question about it. Rangers will try to establish an early differential, while Osijek are forced to score at least one goal.

Expect this game to finish with over 2.5 goals scored.

Verdict: Over 2.5 goals scored – yes

Best Odds: 11/8

Bookmaker: 888sport

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Juan Pablo Aravena


A freelance writer and sports analyst with almost five years of experience in the industry before joining SoccerNews, Juan Pablo Aravena is based in Chile and currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews, 12up, and Sports From The Basement, while also working as a fantasy beat writer for RotoWire, as a database editor for EA Sports, and as a football analyst for SmartOdds and InsideFutbol. His areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, and Ligue 1, but he has also written about MLS and South American football in the past.

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