For those interested in history tomorrow will be the eighth time that Rangers have played Red Star (Crvena Zvevda); and, intriguingly our record is 3 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses, with Rangers winning two of the three previous ties, the most recent being (1:0) in 2007 and the first being a tie only our more senior fans will remember. A well-earned victory in 1964 that took place over three (not two) games
After the first two legs the score was level at five goals each with Red Star winning their home game 4-2, and Rangers winning 3-1 at home, then Rangers won 3-1 in the replay (yep, things were different in those days). In another titbit, John Greig was one of the scorers in the 4-2 game.
Today Red Star is managed by Dejan Stanković, whose style of play is possession-based, and mimics his time at Inter Milan under Roberto Mancini.
Just like Rangers, Red Star Belgrade went through the 2020-2021 season undefeated, with 33 wins and 3 draws to obtain a world record 108 points for a single season.
Though the team can play with speed through the middle, and they are comfortable on the ball, Red Star usually like to feed the ball down the wings.
In many games they try to employ a high press, with up to 5 players in the box, but when they are playing against strong teams, they often play defensive, with a back 5 line, 4 players in midfield and 1 attacker left up front. Just now their greatest threat in front of goal are Aleksandar Katai who has scored 17 league goals this season, and Ohi Omoijuanfo, who thrives on scoring rebounds.
I believe that tomorrow they will go partially defensive and deploy 4 at the back, which will transition to 5 at the back every time Ryan Kent gets the ball, but they will routinely transition to a high press throughout this match, because (they think) we are a third-rate Scottish team, and (despite the Dortmund result) everyone still seems to think we are lucky to be in the last 16.
What they don’t understand is the Dortmund result shows we belong at the top table, and we can defeat any team in front of us, and the only thing that held us back last year was Gerrard not deploying the right tactics.
One thing to expect is the cynical foul. They are not afraid to haul their opponents down to stop a break, with flying rugby tackles, ripping shirts, and throwing in some badly-timed tackles.
In my view, defensively they appear weak, and rely heavily on their goal keeper being on form.
They like to play very safe passes, in order to retain the ball, and through repetitively crossing the ball into the box and taking long-distance shots they try to wear down their opponents. They operate as a team (this being their primary strength) with no-one really standing out. So, it is up to us to exploit their weaknesses, and cut off their passes, and just like Dortmund, this is a team that does not lose often if you stand back and let them play.
So, let’s get at them, and show them we deserve to be here.
This is a game we can win.