And it’s back to Europe. God this fun.
And to start I have something to think about.
Remember how the players of Progres Leatherthorns ridiculed our team after the first leg in 2017?
Well, not this time…
Last week Antwerp’s Jordan Lukaku (their left-back) made a very telling admission.
Here the key part is “but we showed we can match them”.
Think about it. You don’t “match” a team you think you are superior to.
So, going into Thursday, we are facing a team who already raised their game, only to lose 3-4.
Over the weekend they then drew a very tired 0:0, against 15th placed Saint Truidense
But, being honest, I think this is going to be a very strange match.
Their manager still thinks they were the better team, and they don’t have anything to lose by playing all-out attack.
I expect they will now play their strongest front line (as discussed last week), with a lot of crosses over the defensive line (from left to right) to a late arriving Koji Miyoshi coming in from the right; and the attacks from the right to be played low along the edge of the box, for their central attackers to take pot shots from distance, or Mbokani to try and cause chaos. Also look for the dive in the penalty box, and the usual dirty tricks, which are standard in the Belgium league.
And this is where I am going to make what I think is a much needed change to the Rangers team.
I think it is time to rest McGregor and give the gloves to Jon McLaughlin for this match – coz they are going to be throwing everything at us, and taking tons of shots from distance.
Being blunt, McGregor is a fantastic goalie, but against balls travelling fast across the line, he is not the best.
He just does not have the height, the agility or the speed, for when balls are travelling across the mouth of the goal, or travelling towards the top corner, and being honest he has been making mistakes recently. We have just been lucky that a lot of the mistakes have been shot wide or the shots have hit the post or crossbar.
And as we go into the business end of the Europa league we will be facing more accurate strikers, who are good at stretching the keeper’s fingertips.
On the other side of the pitch, we already showed we are too strong for their defensive line. They are absolutely terrified of us, and they don’t know who to mark, because the goal could really come from anybody. Mark Ryan Kent, and wee Hagi just might do something unexpected. Throw two defenders on Aribo and we might get Ryan Jack appearing from nowhere, or even Connor Goldson.
Overall, I’m not predicting another 4 or 5 goals from us. They know they have to tighten up at the back, but how do they do that when they usually play three at the back and they also have to attack.
For a major clue to how they might set up….during their match this weekend they played part of the game with 5 at the back, for the first time this season under their new manager,
And I think that is what we will see this Thursday. Just like Porto last year, they have now realized they need to give their goal extra protection, but that creates problems with overloading the midfield, and invites Rangers down on top of them.
If we can ride out the first 15 minutes of chaos, I predict a 3:1 win.
But then again….we can also dream about scoring 8. Well why not.