Match Preview: Villarreal v Rangers

Match Analysis
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While playing two games a week puts a strain on the players, it is absolutely great for the supporters only having to wait three or four days for the chance to watch the famous. The games will be coming quick and fast up until Christmas due to the teams fantastic performances in the Europa league. After climbing the mountains of the qualifying stages as one of the few teams to go through to the group stages from the first qualifying round, we now start the first round of the group stages against the Spanish Europa League regulars, Villarreal.

While we are not yet back where we want to be -- as that is in the Champions League -- the distance we have travelled to get this far is outstanding. Even just thinking about it, only a few years ago we were talking about playing Peterhead and Berwick Rangers and now we are playing Villarreal in the Europa League group stage. How good does that sound? Villarreal, Rapid Wien and Spartak Moscow and the famous Glasgow Rangers.

So what do we know about Villarreal? They have qualified from the group stages and scored more group stage goals in the Europa league than any other team.They have had a bad start to the season but won on Sunday against Leganes. It was valuable points for Villarreal but as Leganes missed a penalty, their win was somewhat fortuitous. They set up in a 4-4-2 \ 4-1-3-2 with attacking full backs; that line-up leaves room for hitting them on the break. The midfield battle will be so important. With Steven Gerrard setting his Rangers teams up in a 4-2-3-1 then the Gers will be placed to soak up pressure and hit Villarreal on the break.

I believe Rangers will start with the 4-3-2-1 setup, which, with the injuries and bans we have, actually makes it easy to pick the team. We know that Ryan Jack, Ovie Ejaria are injured so that will leave the choice of Andy Halliday and Ross McCrorie for that second defensive midfield role. It has been clear over the last few weeks that Gerrard prefers the experienced Halliday over the teenage McCrorie so it is pretty certain our two holding midfielders will be Lassana Coulibaly and Andy Halliday. I doubt the boss will pick this game to make any changes in defence, so with Jon Flanagan suspended, Gareth McAuley injured and Joe Worrall an untried commodity, we will start with the tried and trusted defence of Tavernier, Goldson, Katic and Borna Barisic. Barisic is now available after being cup-tied for the qualifying rounds after having played for Osijek which included a game against the bears.

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Alan McGregor since returning to the club has been a rock in the goal. Maybe rock is the wrong word because a rock is a pretty static object and Alan McGregor is anything but static. McGregor pulls of reactionary saves that sometimes are beyond belief. McGregor gives the defence a lot of confidence as they know they can trust him if they play back to him and even if they make a mistake, McGregor has the ability to pull them out of the fire. Confidence in your keeper makes a huge difference to the confidence of defenders.

Gerrard has already said that Kyle Lafferty will lead the line as Alfredo Morelos is suspended for the game due to his red card against Ufa. One thing is certain tonight, the players have to have the discipline to keep eleven players on the field. We are now in with the big boys and won't get away with playing with men short.

That only leaves an attacking midfield three. Eros Grezda was introduced against Dundee on Saturday but after missing most of the season until now through injury he is far from being match fit for a game as big as Villarreal and I doubt he will even show. Ovie Ejaria is injured so unless Gerrard throws a curve ball the midfield three will be Daniel Candeias, Scott Arfield and Ryan Kent. The work rate of Kent and Candeias in attacking and defending is second to none. Kent and Barisic on the left is still a work in progress but the partnership of Candeias and Tavernier has become a pretty well-oiled machine.

Glenn Middleton will show at sometime but I doubt we will be starting with the 18 year old.

This is a great opportunity to see just how far we have really come. So only one more thing to say: C'Mon the Gers, get in tae them!

Possible team (4-2-3-1):


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