European football continues under the bright lights on Thursday evening, as attention turns to the Europa League and Conference League, following the drama of the Champions League. Week four of the Europa League group stage brings a 16-game programme, and with the best fixtures broadcast live on TV, there’s plenty to keep followers entertained from 17:45 GMT.
The focus of this article falls on Govan, where Rangers host Sparta Prague in a fascinating clash from Group C. Both teams enter level on four points, two behind current leaders Real Betis, who should add another win to their tally when hosting bottom club Aris Limassol. The winner of the game in Glasgow will likely emerge as the favourite to progress alongside the La Liga outfit.
Rangers manager Philippe Clement made several changes for Sunday’s emphatic 3-1 win over Hearts at Hampden in the League Cup semi-final, handing game time to Leon Balogun, Ryan Jack, Scott Wright and Danilo. Given the positive impact made by all four, they’re likely to start on Thursday. Tom Lawrence also picked up valuable minutes at the national stadium as he moves towards full fitness.
The visitors breathed a sigh of relief with the news that star striker Lucas Haraslin was back in contention after missing the game against Rangers in Prague on matchday three. Haraslin’s return is just the tonic Prague needed after being held to a goalless draw when hosting Gers. But the game comes too soon for the influential captain Ladislav Krejci, and that’s a major blow for the Czech First League champions, something we believe will make all the difference at Ibrox.
There’s little in this game, according to the Betfred trading team, and that’ll catch the attention of value-hunters. Odds-makers seem content to take up a position on the fence, allowing backers to pick sides.
Rangers to bank an important Group C home win is Evens, while victory for the visitors will net supporters an eye-catching 13/5. Fancy a second draw in two games involving Gers and Iron Sparta? The level finish trades at 5/2.
Rangers win – Evens
We know how influential the atmosphere can be at Ibrox on European nights, and it helped drive the locals to an impressive 1-0 win over pool leaders Real Betis on matchday one. On-loan Brighton striker Abdallah Sima scored the winning goal that evening, and another tight home victory is our call.
Since current boss Clement replaced the hapless Michael Beale, the Rangers squad has found its feet. The hosts enjoy an unbeaten record under the Belgian, cutting into Celtic’s lead and booking a place in the League Cup final against Aberdeen next month. They were simply superb when flattening Hearts in Glasgow, leading 3-0 before conceding a late penalty following a VAR check.
From goalkeeper Jack Butland to Brazilian striker Danilo, belief runs through the team. We’ll see another impressive win on Thursday evening, with an ever-passionate crowd spurring their heroes to a crucial three points.
James Tavernier anytime scorer – 11/4
Rangers captain James Tavernier continued to lead by example at Hampden on Sunday when scoring a double to help sink the Jambos and fire his men to the final. The right-back has been instrumental in Rangers’ recovery, scoring seven goals and providing three assists in all competitions.
Tavernier has scored four in the three games played since Rangers’ draw in Prague late last month, and he’ll have another big say on Thursday. The Englishman will drag his team into attacking positions, firing crosses into the box down the right. But he’s also the club’s penalty-taker, making him a great bet to continue his scoring streak with a goal anytime during the game at a generous 11/4 quote.