Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 8/13
Steven Gerrard’s charges head towards Russia for their final Europa League qualifier hoping to build on a 1-0 lead from the first leg and book their place for the group stage of the competition for the first time since 2011.
The capital of the Republic of Bashkortostan – Ufa – is bursting with excitement ahead of the Thursday’s match against Scottish giants Rangers. The Russian representatives in the Europa League are expecting a full house at their Neftyanik Stadium as around 11,000 tickets out of the 15,000 capacity have already been sold.
Ufa have endured a poor form leading up to the Rangers tie and will surely be hoping their supporters can inspire them to turn the tables around. The Russians have failed to win any of their last five matches – losing four and drawing one of those. Ufa were comfortably beaten by the Russian Premier League powerhouse Zenit on Sunday in a 2-0 home defeat which left them sitting in 14th place in the standings after five matches into the new season. Despite their poor stretch of form, Ufa did well to hold Rangers to a one-goal win in the first leg and were able to disrupt their rhythm in what happened to be a largely frustrating evening in Scotland. The Russians will be hoping to add further pressure on Gerrard’s men and propel themselves into the group stages of the Europa League.
Sergei Tomarov is not expected to make big changes for the return leg and is happy to report an almost fully fit squad ahead of the Thursday fixture.
Youngster Yerkebulan Seidakhmet remains the only unavailable player for the hosts with an injury that’s been troubling him since April.
Once the Scottish top flight mainstay, Rangers have gone through quite a lot over the past couple of years. Inspired to make their return to the biggest stage, the fallen giants of Scottish football called upon a rookie manager Steven Gerrard who is enjoying a stellar start to his managerial career.
Still unbeaten in 10 matches in charge of Rangers, Steven Gerrard is one game away from clinching a Europa League qualification. It would be quite an achievement for the rookie boss whose side remains just one of the 86 teams that entered first-round qualifying still competing for a place in the group stage. Rangers are packing their bags for Russia with a slim advantage achieved through Connor Goldson from close range just before the interval of the first leg. Gerrard’s team were not troubled at the back as they maintained a clean sheet at Ibrox despite the late pressure from Ufa. Former Liverpool midfielder will hope his players will once again replicate the energy and desire that epitomized the Anfield legend and end up celebrating passage 2,300 miles away from home, deep into Russia. It will be easier said than done, especially with several first-team players unavailable for the fixture.
Mali international Lassana Coulibaly is struggling to shake off a thigh issue and will not participate in the return leg.
Graham Dorrans, Jamie Murphy and Jordan Rossiter complete the injury list for the Scottish side.
Key Factors to Consider
- Ufa are coming off from three straight defeats in all competitions
- The Russians won only three of their last 10 home matches
- Rangers have not lost a single away match since May 2018
- Scottish charges have yet to be unbeaten under Steven Gerrard
- Rangers are hoping to seal Europa League qualification for the first time since 2011
Rangers have enjoyed quite a run in the Europa League this season. Steven Gerrard overlooked a seven-match unbeaten run in the competition this year and is hoping to record another positive result which would guarantee a European autumn at Ibrox. Rangers are a more quality side than Ufa but will have to be vigilant and keep their guard up if they want to seal passage on Thursday night.
Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 8/13
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