Rangers: Predicted XI and potential changes for Red Star Belgrade Europa League clash

Rangers must keep their cool in the red-hot Marakana atmosphere in Belgrade on Thursday with a place in the Europa League quarter finals at stake.

Carrying a 3-0 advantage from Ibrox is a significant cushion for Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side to defend – but will that be how the manager approaches the game?

"It’s a new game and I think we have to approach the game to have the best result possible – don’t go into the game already knowing you have a three-goal difference. We have to prepare from the first minute to be solid and dangerous as well in the right moments in the game, so it doesn’t affect us,” the manager said at his pre-match pres conference.

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That would suggest the game will be taken in isolation with his strongest XI possible, but van Bronckhorst also has an entire team – 11 players – walking a suspension tightrope in the Rajko Mitic Stadium. However he will follow the same principle with the game as with the ban threat and go with the team to win the tie, regardless of what has gone before, or comes after.

“The players in the game don’t need to play a different way. We’ll go with the strongest XI possible and we’ll do everything possible to win this game, win this tie, and we’ll see after who we have available for the next game.”

Therefore without Filip Helander, removed from the European squad for the latter stages of the competition, it’s likely to be a settled backline with Allan McGregor restored to the team after Jon McLaughlin’s quietly efficient cameo against Dundee.

The versatility of the line-up for the home leg allowed the Dutch boss to play either with a three-man defence with John Lundstram dropping deep to support Connor Godlson and Leon Balogun, or sit in his usual midfield spot and that seems to have been a favoured option for van Bronkhorst and one that he will likely revisit.

Calvin Bassey’s versatility, as well as his recent quality, also merits his inclusion within that system.

Calvin Bassey in action for Rangers during a UEFA Europa League match between Rangers and Red Star Belgrade.(Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

The strongest XI will also include Ryan Jack, Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos and the latter pair’s ability to break at pace will be an important asset against a Red Star team who will need an early goal to hold any chance of clawing back Rangers’ well-earned deficit.

How the space in between is filled is the question and with Joe Aribo one of those now on a suspension tightrope, the Nigerian may be the player to drop out to add Scott Arfield’s more defensive, back-tracking traits to deal with the Red Star onslaught, at least early on.

Aribo’s composure and control is a vital tool, particularly later on, to be utilised and likewise Glen Kamara’s recent foray forward could come in useful as a link to complement his own possession-controlling game when the heat is on.

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Aaron Ramsey is back fit and while his quality is unquestionable – can he fit into the team for such a crucial fixture in Rangers’ European campaign? Perhaps like Aribo, he’s better suited off the bench where Kemar Roofe and maybe even the out-ball, hold-up play of Cedric Itten could have a part to play too.

Allan McGregor is expected to regain the gloves for the trip to Serbia. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Last line-up vs Dundee: McLaughlin, Bassey, Helander, Goldson, Tavernier, Sands, Jack, Ramsey, Kamara, Kent, Morelos. Predicted line-up v Red Star: McGregor, Bassey, Balogun, Goldson, Tavernier, Lundstram, Jack, Arfield, Kamara, Kent, Morelos.

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Rangers' Leon Balogun at full time after the first leg. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

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