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Nov 25, 2021 at 8pm UK
Sparta PragueSparta Prague
Morelos (15', 49')
Hagi (45'), Barisic (57')
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Preview: Rangers vs. Sparta Prague - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Rangers vs. Sparta Prague - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Rangers and Sparta Prague, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Giovanni van Bronckhorst will take charge of his first game as Rangers manager on Thursday night, as his new side welcome Sparta Prague to Ibrox for their crucial Europa League encounter.

The two sides – who are level on four points in Group A – head into this contest off the back of disappointing domestic defeats at the weekend, and another loss for either team in Glasgow could end their hopes of advancing to the knockout rounds.

Match preview

For the first time in over three years, Rangers took to the pitch at the weekend without Steven Gerrard as their head coach, following his departure to Aston Villa over the international break.

Former player Van Bronckhorst has since taken the reins but he had to watch his new side from the stands at Hampden Park, as they suffered a surprise 3-1 defeat against Hibernian in the Scottish League Cup semi-finals.

Hopes of an Old Firm final are now over, and their chances of advancing in the Europa League are also at risk, having endured a more challenging group-stage campaign compared to last year.

After suffering two defeats without scoring against runaway Group A leaders Lyon and Thursday's opponents Sparta Prague, Rangers have since claimed four points from their home and away fixtures against Brondby, which keeps them in contention of finishing in second place.

The Gers, who had twice as many points at this stage of the Europa League last season, need to beat Sparta in midweek by at least two goals to book their place in the last 32, while defeat would see them eliminated from the competition.

Van Bronckhorst has inherited a side who have only won two of their last 10 European fixtures, so the Dutchman will be hoping he can have an immediate impact to keep their continental dreams alive.

Sparta Prague suffered their first league defeat of the season and their heaviest since May 2019, when they were beaten 4-0 away against title rivals Slovanko in the Czech First League on Sunday.

The 21-time champions, who are searching for their first top-flight title since 2013-14, remain at the summit for now, though the gap to second place has been reduced to three points.

After also losing their previous away game 3-0 to Lyon in the Europa League, Pavel Vrba's men now head into Thursday's game hoping to avoid a third successive loss on the road. However, Sparta have a poor away record in European competition, as they have lost ten of their last 12 matches.

The Czech outfit have also struggled in the Europa League over the years, winning only three of their last 13 games; however, all three have been against Scottish opponents, including September's 1-0 triumph against Rangers on home soil.

That victory will give Vrba's men confidence for their crucial clash at Ibrox and another win against the Gers would see them advance to the knockout rounds for the third time in four years.

Rangers Europa League form:
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • D

Rangers form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • L

Sparta Prague Europa League form:
  • D
  • W
  • L
  • L

Sparta Prague form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • L

Team News

Rangers will still be without defender Filip Helander (knee) and midfielder Nnamdi Ofoborh (heart condition), while Kemar Roofe is doubtful after picking up a knock while on international duty, which forced him to miss the defeat against Hibs.

Under Gerrard, the Gers regularly adopted a 4-3-3 formation, a system also used by Van Bronckhorst during his time at Feyenoord, so drastic changes to their style are not expected.

Captain Steven Davis and Glen Kamara are set to remain in centre-midfield; however, Scott Arfield – who scored at the weekend – could be replaced in the first XI by either John Lundstram or Ryan Jack.

Alfredo Morelos and Fashion Sakala are both one booking away from a suspension, though with this being such an important match for Rangers, the former is expected to start down the middle, with the latter an option on the bench.

As for Sparta Prague, they will be without Lukas Julis (groin), Casper Hojer (calf), Filip Soucek (knee), Matej Polidar (muscle) and Ondrej Celustka (knee) due to injury, while David Moberg Karlsson and Ladislav Krejci are unavailable due to illness.

Right-back Andreas Vindheim is likely to start at the expense of Tomas Wiesner, who is doubtful after being substituted midway through the first half at the weekend.

Wingers Jakub Pesek and Lukas Haraslin – who have scored 10 goals between them in all competitions so far this season – are expected to support central striker Martin Minchev in attack.

Rangers possible starting lineup:
McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic; Lundstram, Davis, Kamara; Aribo, Morelos, Kent

Sparta Prague possible starting lineup:
Nita; Vindheim, Panak, Celustka, Hancko; Sacek, Pavelka; Pesek, Hlozek, Haraslin; Minchev

We say: Rangers 2-1 Sparta Prague

Both teams can seal their place in the last 32 of the Europa League with a victory on Thursday; however, a draw would be more beneficial to the visitors who have the better head-to-head record as things stand.

With a new manager at the helm for a European night under the lights at Ibrox, the home supporters will act as a 12th man for Rangers, which could help to get them over the line and secure a narrow victory.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data

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