Rangers v Royal Antwerp: Desperate visitors must attack but draw suits Gers

Rangers take a 4-3 lead back to Ibrox with Antwerp expected to come at them from the off. Betfair's Frankie Monkhouse predicts plenty more drama...

Seven-goal thriller in Belgium

Rangers host Royal Antwerp in the Europa League Round of 32 at Ibrox on Thursday. After the pair served up a memorable seven-goal thriller in Belgium last week, armchair fans want to see the same again. Steven Gerrard demands his side return to their best at the back to protect a 4-3 aggregate lead.

The goal-fest last Thursday at Bosuilstadion had it all. An unpredictable referee, several VAR decisions, three penalties. There were numerous injuries, including knocks to Rangers captain James Tavernier and attacker Kemar Roofe, Antwerp losing goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand. A red card and last-minute winner. No sooner have fans caught their breath, we go again.

Gerrard will be without his free-scoring captain

Rangers took the lead in Antwerp through a Joe Aribo goal but went into the break 2-1 down, conceding a penalty eight minutes into stoppage-time. Super-sub Ryan Kent netted a wonderful goal either side of two penalties from left-back Borna Barisic. Rangers return to Ibrox with four away goals and an aggregate lead but we're only at the halfway stage. There's sure to be plenty more twists and turns in this tie.

Gerrard will be forced into a reshuffle after losing his captain and star player Tavernier from right back. He has options to freshen up the attack but filling the void left by Tav will be more difficult. It's likely he'll call on well-travelled defender Leon Balogun to do a job there. The 32-year-old Nigeria cap can help in defence but lacks the quality of the club captain going forward.

Franky's men can't relax

Royal Antwerp went into the first leg missing a few first-team regulars but proved a match for the Scottish Premiership leaders. Franky Vercauteren's team looked fragile at the back but were always dangerous in attack and despite the first leg loss, they will arrive in Govan confident of causing Rangers problems again. This tie isn't over by any stretch of the imagination, but they must win at Ibrox and do it by at least two goals.

The Great Old will take confidence from the fact they led twice and forced Gers goalkeeper Alan McGregor into some remarkable saves in the second half. They must attack in Glasgow and have the flair going forward to score more goals. In doing so they are likely to leave themselves open at the back. Beiranvand could return between the sticks after going off injured on 77 minutes.

The first goal will be crucial

The first-leg was end-to-end stuff with both teams looking like scoring every time they passed the half-way line. Rangers have the advantage but it's a narrow one and if the visitors score first things will get even more interesting. Rangers are favourites on the match-winner market with 1.48 trading on the Betfair Exchange.

Antwerp must gamble if they are to stay in this. The first goal will be crucial in Glasgow on Thursday night and the visitors are expected to get plenty of the ball as their opponents sit deep and aim to hit on the counter-attack. Royal Antwerp are 7 for the win with the draw 4.7.

Both score the obvious choice

Bettors would be forgiven for not knowing how to approach this match after the drama and excitement of last week. Both teams to score is an obvious pick at 1.7 or over 2.5 goals 1.5.

A draw or low-scoring defeat would suit Gers, but Gerrard will demand much better than he saw from his men in Belgium. They must be better organised, defend set-pieces with more confidence and resist the urge to give away silly fouls around the box. The draw looks overpriced.



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