Rangers vs Braga preview

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Team news, stats and predictions as Rangers host Braga in the last 32 of the Europa League.

Team news

Jermain Defoe suffered a calf injury against Ross County at Ibrox
Image: Jermain Defoe remains sidelined with a calf injury

Borna Barisic is available again after the left-back missed games with Kilmarnock and Livingston because of a thigh injury.

However, midfielder Ryan Jack is missing through suspension, while striker Jermain Defoe (calf) and defender Filip Helander (foot) remain sidelined.

For Braga, defender David Carmo is set to make his European debut after stepping up from the B team, while a trio from of Paulinho, Ricardo Horta, Galeno and Wilson Eduardo are expected to lead the Portuguese side’s attack.

Steven Gerrard celebrates Rangers winning at Celtic 1:42
Steven Gerrard admits that VAR may make him more tentative on the touchline, but says that not celebrating a goal is easier said than done!

Opta stats

  • This will be the first ever meeting between Rangers and Sporting Braga – Rangers have never lost a home match against Portuguese opposition before (W6 D2), including a 2-0 win against Porto in this season’s group stage.
  • Braga have lost both of their previous away games against Scottish sides in European competition, going down 1-3 against Hearts in September 2004 and 1-2 at Celtic in August 2010.
  • This is Rangers’ first appearance in the knockout stages of a major European competition since the 2010-11 Europa League – they beat Portuguese side Sporting CP in the round of 32 before being eliminated at the last 16 stage.
  • Including qualifiers, Braga are unbeaten in their last 13 matches in European competition (W9 D4), netting 29 goals in total across these games.
  • Rangers’ Alfredo Morelos is the top scorer in the Europa League this season with six goals. No Rangers player has ever scored more in a single season in a major European competition (excluding qualifiers), with the Colombian equalling James Forrest’s haul from the 1964-65 European Cup.
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Highlights from the Scottish Premiership match between Rangers and Livingston at Ibrox

Charlie Nicholas’ prediction

Rangers have been disappointing to say the least since returning from the winter break. They got over the line against Livingston, but the big thing that is giving Steven Gerrard issues is the pitch. The storm means the grass will be a struggle to play on, so it will be an in-your-face traditional aggressive style of play that will be thrown at the Portuguese. Braga will handle this well, but these sides are always suspect when travelling away from home. They are tidy but you can rough them up.

Alfredo Morelos has been quiet since coming back, not only in terms of goals but in relation to incidents and cards too. These are the types of games which Morelos will thrive in. They beat Porto and have beaten better teams than this, so I expect them to go and win this. It will be a tense affair but a powerful and aggressive performance will ensure Rangers pick up the win.

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CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-1 (8/1 with Sky Bet)

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