Rangers welcome Sparta Prague to Ibrox in the Europa League on Thursday night.
The Glasgow club currently sit third in Group A, tied on four points with their guests. Prague sit in second based on the head to head record, having won the reverse fixture in September.
That makes this a must win game for Rangers, in their first European fixture since Steven Gerrard’s departure.
New manager Gio van Bronckhorst will have to hit the ground running in this competition. That’s something he wasn’t able to do on Sunday, as Rangers lost 3-1 to Hibernian in the Scottish League Cup.
The former Rangers player will have had more time with the players by the time this game comes around. He may be able to get a better performance out of them here, and it will certainly be needed.
Sparta Prague didn’t exactly have the best preparation for this game. Their Czech league game on Sunday ended in an embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Slovacko.
That could have damaged their confidence significantly heading into this. They will still fancy their chances here though, having won the previous meeting with Rangers.
This is a must win for van Bronckhorst’s men, as they can’t risk drawing here and finishing on level points. It’s almost impossible to predict what kind of performance we’ll get from Rangers here though.
Below, we’ll preview this Europa League fixture and provide our predictions, the team news, our recommended bets and more…
Rangers vs Sparta Prague Predictions
Gio van Bronckhorst pretty much got off to the worst possible start as Rangers manager. He had next to no time to prepare though and we could see something more from this game.
The new Rangers manager is expected to make a few changes from the weekend defeat. That could also bring about some improvement in the side.
That defeat on Sunday was also only the second time Rangers have lost at Ibrox since mid-August. That impressive home record could stand them in good stead here, even though it was achieved under Steven Gerrard.
The Ibrox faithful will certainly do their bit to get their team over the line. They’ll know the importance of winning this game and they could be the difference for the hosts.
Rangers weren’t blown away in the previous game either. Only a single goal separated the sides and the Scots had plenty of chances to draw level.
If the Glaswegians can be more clinical with their finishing here, they have every chance. Alfredo Morelos will be key to their chances of doing that.
The Colombian striker has failed to find the net in his last three games for the hosts. He did score the last time Rangers were at home in this competition however.
He’s definitely one of the players who will feed off of the Ibrox atmosphere. If the crowd is bouncing, Morelos will no doubt respond and put in a classic performance.
With so much on the line, we’re expecting a huge performance from the home side.
Read on for our Rangers v Sparta Prague predictions and best bets.
Rangers vs Sparta Prague Head to Head
Before the game in September, these clubs had only met on two previous occasions. Those games came all the way back in 1991 in Champions League qualifying.
Sparta Prague won the first leg 1-0. Rangers won the return leg 2-1, but failed to progress due to the away goals rule.
For the purposes of predicting how this game could go, we should definitely be looking at the most recent encounter.
Although Sparta Prague won the game, Rangers could easily have won it. It was a tight game on all accounts, but both sides did have plenty of chances.
We’re expecting another similar game at Ibrox. But some better finishing from the Scots could see their hopes of progressing get a major boost.
Rangers Team News – L W D W D
The hosts are expected to field a similar side to the one that lost to Hibs on Sunday. Allan McGregor is likely to keep his place in goal for the home side here.
Leon Balogun and Connor Goldson are expected to keep their partnership intact in defence. Borna Barisic will line up at left back, with James Tavernier at right back.
Steven Davis and Glen Kamara are likely to start in the midfield for Rangers here. Scott Arfield scored on Sunday, but could be replaced by Ianis Hagi to complete the midfield trio.
Joe Aribo will likely line up in attacking three. Ryan Kent was disappointing on the weekend, and could be replaced by Fashion Sakala in attack.
Alfredo Morelos will lead the attack for the hosts in this. The Colombian needs to put his shooting boots on here to fire his side above the visitors in the group.
Sparta Prague Team News – L W L D W
The visitors have some injury concerns of their own that will mean changes from the team that played Lyon. However, our Rangers v Sparta Prague predictions still expect Florin Nita to keep his place in goal.
Filip Panak and Lukas Stetina are likely to partner each other in the centre of defence. Ondrej Celustka remains out with a knee injury for the away side.
Tomas Wiesner is expected to start the game at right back for the Czechs. David Hancko will play on the left side of the defence.
David Pavelka and Ladislav Krejci II will anchor the midfield. Haraslin will provide the attacking width on the right, with Krejci on the left wing.
Adam Hlozek is expected to start in the attacking midfield role. Martin Minchev will lead the attacking line in front of him and be the focal point.
Rangers vs Sparta Prague Betting Tips
Despite losing the reverse fixture, the hosts actually come into this game as the favourites. The traders have van Bronckhorst’s side priced up at 4/5 in our Rangers v Sparta Prague match bets.
A draw simply will not do for Rangers here, with Lyon waiting in the final group game. However, if you think this one will end all square, you can back the draw at 13/5.
With injuries to key players, it’s not too surprising that the visitors are expected to fall here. If you think the Czechs can take the three points though, you can back Sparta Prague at 16/5.
We’re expecting Rangers to come out swinging here, with so much on the line. They’ll know that a win will give them a great chance of progressing. We’re backing a home win in this one.