And it’s back to Europe where the Champions of Scotland take on the Champions of The Czech Republic.
Slavia Prague were formed in 1892, and an interesting titbit is from 1905 to 1930 they employed John Madden as their manager, John Madden previously played for Celtic and for the mighty Dumbartonshire.
And for a wee bit more trivia, from 1919 to 1923 their bitter rivals, Sparta Praha hired Airdrionians’ John Dick, as their manager.
We don’t know how many other teams had Scottish managers, but early Czech football definitely had a very strong Scottish flavour to it.
Today Slavia Praha play the what is now the typical hard-working, free-flowing Czech style. It is a team, sprinkled with a large number of internationalists, and the one that has all of Romania talking about the upcoming match, is the face-off between our megastar Ianis Hagi, and his international teammate, Nicolae Stanciu, who plays on the left wing for both Romania, and Slavia Praha.
Then, in the middle of the field their attacking midfielder, Nigerian Peter Olayinka, will be trying to give his team mates the inside story on Joe Aribo and Leon Balogun.
And from the Europa League website I found this very interesting titbit of information.
Ryan Jack was in the Scotland side that defeated the Czech Republic team (1:0) that featured six Slavia Praha players – Lukas Provod who plays left wing, Jan Bořil (their left back), Ondřej Kúdela (Center back), Lukáš Masopust (Right Midfield) and substitutes David Hovorka (Center Back) and Petr Ševčík (Center Midfield) in the UEFA Nations League not that long ago, on 14th October 2020.
This means we are really playing against the Czech national team, and Scotland has already defeated them (1:0)
Now to what should we can expect from our opponents?
Well, from reading through their players’ press releases it is obvious they really fancy their chances, but it is obvious they have only had time to take in just one or two Rangers games (and being more specific they have only watched the last game against Antwerp), because they are only highlighting Alfredo Morelos as a threat.
In fact, there is a strong feeling of arrogance that is coming in waves from this team, which clearly suggests they are just not paying attention, and this is something we can use to our advantage, as I will explain.
The main strength of this Czech team is it is extremely well-drilled and it has a strong, coordinated defensive line, which they use this as their base for rapid attacks on the break, when they are defending under pressure.
They play a very high speed, fast passing game, with emphasis again on working as a team. Being blunt this is a really dangerous team, who on their day can beat Bayern Leverkusen, but on an off day can also lose 4 goals.
In defence they are similar to a typical Scottish team. Compact and difficult to play through, and when necessary they will set up the low block, with 10 in the box.
In attack they like to drive as I said, rapidly through the lines (in a style similar to Celtic), and they are not shy to try long shots, and to play balls over the top, and to use the long diagonal overhead pass, to try to catch the opposition’s defender off guard.
But on Thursday, they are going to try to man mark Alfredo. They usually have one defender playing close to every single attacker, with a secondary defender close by. But for Alfredo, is that enough? And by concentrating so heavily on Alfredo, are they forgetting they are playing against another team, that plays as a team?
They also have a very bad habit of bunching. In their games, which in their league usually are very open free-flowing games, they try to dominate their opponents by a very high press, and playing two on one, and this creates gaps in critical areas of the field, which can be used by opponents who are also quick in the counter-attack
So, what we have is two very closely matched teams. Tactically we both play very similar games, but the primary difference is their manager is a major control freak.
Their team must play as a strict well-drilled team at all times, whereas we play as a team of individuals, which lets us bring out the creativity in our best players.
And I think that is going to be the difference.
The reason why we are excited about this specific Rangers team is this team is something special.
We can play the team game, but the entire team and I mean the entire team can rotate around, with secondary players filling the gaps when any one of them decides to do that something special, and risky move.
It’s this creativity that wins games against tactically aware teams.
That moments of genius that make the world sit up and take notice, and marks these special players as being truly world class.
There is no doubt about it. This is going to be a very tough match, but this is a game that Rangers can win, and it all down to our unique way of playing, a style that Tavernier know all too well, because he has been playing it now for 6 years.
A free flowing style that was first introduced by Johan Cruyff…and that is total football,
A style that we have improved upon, that permits Nathan Patterson, our right back for god sake, the freedom to play on the left wing as an extra attacker, and Ryan Kent the freedom to play as a central defender.
Our opponents, Praha, seem to think they know what to expect, and by simply marking Morelos they will neuter our entire team.
If they do that, their defenders are going to be chasing shadows all night.
Overall this game will reveal two teams with about equally matched midfields, but their attacking line is definitely weaker than ours, and because Czech football plays a far more open free-flowing game, they do not practice much against teams who play with a well-organized defence, and as I just said, our attack is far more dynamic.
I expect this is going to be yet another very interesting European night.
One where we will show the entire world that Rangers are ready
And the next part of The Journey is now beginning.