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Preview: Sparta Prague vs. Rangers - prediction, team news, lineups
30/09/2021 13:55:25

Scottish Premiership champions Rangers will be looking to claim their first three points in Group A when they travel to Sparta Prague for their second match in the Europa League on Thursday night (5:45PM, 30 Sept).

The two sides last met back in 1991-92 in the first round of the European Cup, with the Czech outfit progressing on away goals, winning 1-0 on home soil before losing 2-1 against the Gers at Ibrox.

We say: Sparta Prague 1-2 Rangers

With Lyon the favourites to top Group A, both Sparta Prague and Rangers will view their encounters against each other as must-win matches if they are to advance into the knockout stages.

A closely-fought contest is set to be played out on Thursday, however we feel that the visitors have a greater threat going forward which could fire them towards all three points in the Czech capital.

Match preview

Rangers began their Europa League campaign with a 2-0 defeat at home against French giants Lyon earlier this month, with Karl Toko Ekambi's first-half strike as well as a second-half own goal from James Tavernier helping the visitors claim all three points at Ibrox.

Since that defeat, Steven Gerrard's side have claimed seven points from a possible nine available in the Scottish Premiership, including a narrow 1-0 victory away against Dundee last weekend.

Joe Aribo's 16th-minute strike ensured the Gers stay at the of the table, however they were fortunate to have come away with all three points after Jason Cummings had his second-half penalty saved by Jon McLaughlin.

Rangers now turn their attention back to the Europa League, where they face Czech opposition for the second successive year, after losing 3-1 on aggregate against Slavia Prague in a fiery round of 16 clash last season.

The Gers have only lost one of their last nine away matches in the Europa League, winning and drawing four games each, and were unbeaten in all five games on the road throughout last season's competition.

Success on Thursday will be beneficial for Gerrard's men if they are to advance to the knockout stages for the third consecutive campaign.

Czech Republic giants Sparta Prague began their Europa League campaign with an uneventful goalless draw against Brondby earlier this month.

The clash in Denmark saw the fewest shots (16) and had the lowest total xG (0.8) of any Europa League fixture in the opening round of this season's competition.

Pavel Vrba will have been disappointed not to have come away with all three points against the outsiders in Group A, a team who they were expected to beat.

Sparta Prague have, however, made a solid start to their domestic campaign, winning six and drawing two of their first nine games in the Czech top flight, which sees them four points behind league leaders Viktoria Plzen and just two behind Slavia Prague in second, who they will face this weekend.

The Iron Sparta head into Thursday's clash after losing two of their last three group-stage matches at home in the Europa League. Prior to this, they were unbeaten in 15 group games on home soil between the 2010-11 and 2016-17 seasons.

Vrba's men will been keen to claim all three points against Rangers, as they aim to reach the knockout rounds for the first time since 2015-16.

Team News

Sparta Prague's star striker Lukas Julis, who scored five goals against Celtic in the Europa League group stages last season, is ruled out with a groin injury.

The hosts will also be without Ladislav Krejci (blood clot in the lungs), Casper Hojer (calf) and Borek Dockal (knee) for Thursday's game.

Teenage forward Adam Hlozek is set to be handed a start as the central striker, with support on the flanks provided by wingers David Moberg Karlsson and Jakub Pesek.

As for Rangers, Ryan Kent remains out with a hamstring injury, while Filip Helander and Ryan Jack are also unavailable as they continue to recover from respective knee and calf problems.

Gerrard is set to recall goalkeeper Allan McGregor, left-back Borna Barisic and midfielder Steven Davis – who all began on the bench against Dundee – with McLaughlin, Calvin Bassey and John Lundstram set to drop out of the first XI as a result.

Attacking midfielder Ianis Hagi is expected to be handed another start alongside Kemar Roofe and Alfredo Morelos in the same three-man attack which started at the weekend.

Sparta Prague possible starting lineup:

Nita; Wiesner, Panak, Stetina, Hancko; Sacek, Pavelka, Soucek; Moberg Karlsson, Hlozek, Pesek

Rangers possible starting lineup:

McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic; Kamara, Davis, Aribo; Hagi, Morelos, Roofe

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