Rangers team v Union Saint-Gilloise: Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos can take Champions League centre stage

Giovanni van Bronckhorst has a cast of stars to choose from to send Rangers through to the Champions League play-off with Monaco or PSV Eindhoven – but his team selection will be under the spotlight on Tuesday.

The manager, for the first time in his Ibrox tenure, came under scrutiny for his tactics and formation against Union Saint-Gilloise last week and the ham-fisted 2-0 reverse in Belgium which leaves hopes of European progression teetering over the trapdoor just three months after the Europa League final in Seville. Eintracht Frankfurt, winners that night in southern Spain, play Champions League holders Real Madrid in the European Super Cup 24 hours later – by which point Rangers could already be out.

A restructured team made heavy work of Kilmarnock but got the job done domestically and it is back at Ibrox where another European atmosphere and performance is required to overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit for the first time.

Stage left

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So enter stage left, Ryan Kent. The winger was a glaring omission from Rangers’ travelling party last week and attacks suffered without his rapid pace wide on the left. Rabbi Matondo, capable of similar speed on the opposite-flank faded and was well-played by the Belgians who knew him from his time at Cercle Brugge.

Kent has turned it on when it has mattered in Europe and van Bronckhorst is hopeful he will be ready in time. His inclusion will be a massive boon for the crowd, as well as Ridvan Yilmaz. The little Turkish signing settled into his home debut after a nervy start. With dual pace on the left, Rangers’ width can change the script from their lacklustre show in Belgium.

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Buffalo billing

Rangers' Alfredo Morelos celebrates as he makes it 2-0 during a cinch Premiership match between Rangers and Kilmarnock. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Of course, there is now Alfredo Morelos. When it comes to Rangers needing goals ‘El Buffalo’ takes top billing – if he is fit.

Clearly not as sharp and a little heavier than usual, on Saturday he still showed that clinical edge of being where it mattered to score against Kilmarnock. That knack is so crucial when Rangers need it – and they do, three-times over.

Give him another half-hour as impact sub, or as much as he can from the beginning before swapping with Antonio Colak is the question for the manager – but it would add another charge to the Ibrox atmosphere if their hero was to start and blow the Belgians away early.


Ryan Kent. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Four changes were made at the weekend from the first-leg defeat, and countering starts for Yilmaz, Kent and Morelos, there may not be many more.

Rabbi Matondo could be another of those impact substitutes leaving Scott Wright, a favourite of van Bronckhorst in Europe, Tom Lawrence and Malik Tillman to play for places beside Kent.

Steven Davis as midfield anchor can let John Lundstram stretch his legs again unless Ryan Jack is given a reprieve and James Sands looks certain to stay in the starting XI – it doesn’t seem the time to draft Ben Davies in for a game of this magnitude, especially beside a new left-back.

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Likewise it’s unlikely van Bronckhorst will deviate too much from well-rehearsed formations – he has tinkered to great effect in Europe and will ensure he has alternatives and understudies, but centre-stage on Tuesday is not the time for another failed Champions League audition.

Rangers' James Sands. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

Predicted XI: McLaughlin, Tavernier, Goldson, Sands, Yilmaz, Lundstram, Jack, Kent, Tillman, Lawrence, Morelos.



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