Rangers v Villarreal: Journalists' predictions for crunch Europa League match

We asked four of our football writers to give their predictions ahead of Thursday night's clash in the Europa League.

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Moira Gordon: Rangers 2 Villarreal 2

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A tough one for an Ibrox team described by their own manager as underdogs at the start of the group stage and they will have to be extremely wary of a Villareal side who have some quality attacking options and will be more than happy to test the home defence. But, unbeaten at Ibrox since taking over at Rangers, Steven Gerrard has said that it is ‘crucial’ that his team again avoid defeat to keep their hopes of maintaining an interest in Europe beyond Christmas alive and he and his players will be encouraged by his side’s display in Spain when they twice came from behind to snatch a point and even had an opportunity to claim all three but Scott Arfield failed to convert a last gasp chance.

Scott Arfield battles for possession with Villarreal's Santi Cazorla. Picture: SNS

Joel Sked: Rangers 1 Villarreal 3

This may be the poorest performing Villarreal side since their relegation to the Spanish second tier in 2012 but there is still an abundance of quality throughout the side, from Sergio Asenjo between the sticks, Victor Ruiz in defence, former Arsenal star Santi Cazorla pulling the strings and forward Gerard Moreno. They’ve lost just once in eight but have drawn too many games. In front of a raucous home support an early goal is crucial for Rangers but I think it will allude them and, with the Spanish side knowing a win secures qualification, the Yellow Submarines will produce a performance that will sink Gerrard’s men.

Craig Fowler: Rangers 1 Villarreal 1

The La Liga side have struggled this season, currently sitting 16th in the league table. However, as Joel says, they still have a lot of quality in their squad and are more than capable of hurting Rangers, as evidenced by the first game in the group stage where Gerrard’s side had to ride their luck to emerge with a draw. I envision another frustrating evening, much like the Spartak game in Glasgow, where Rangers play well but can’t get the result they desire.

Stephen Halliday: Rangers 2 Villarreal 2

Gerrard has yet to lose a game at Ibrox as Rangers manager and must extend that record if his side are to retain hopes of Europa League football beyond the turn of the year. Villarreal arrive in Glasgow boosted by their weekend win over Real Betis and have the flair and firepower to trouble the Rangers defence. As ever, Alfredo Morelos will be key to the home side’s ambitions and he can contribute to an outcome which would take the battle for qualification from Group G down to the wire.