Rangers XI v PSV: The key decisions facing Giovanni van Bronckhorst ahead of crucial Champions League tie

They don't come much bigger than a Champions League play-off second-leg with the tie in the balance at this stage of the season.

Following a 2-2 draw at Ibrox, Rangers face PSV in Eindhoven looking to reach the group stage of the continent’s elite tournament for the first time in more than a decade.

The last time was 2010/11 when the team qualified directly having won the Scottish Premier League and were pitted against Manchester United, Valencia and Bursaspor.

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Twelve years on, a win in the Netherlands will likely produce a group which could be more difficult with Real Madrid, Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund possible opponents.

The build-up to the match has been dominated by Alfredo Morelos after the Colombian was dropped from the squad, a decision taken following his sending off in the weekend’s 2-2 draw with Hibs in the Premiership.

So long a talisman for Rangers, especially in Europe, he wasn't used in the home leg and would not have started the away tie due to the impressive start made by Antonio Colak.

The Croatian international has hit four goals in seven matches so far and has proven himself before in Champions League qualifiers, scoring twice against Rangers last season as Malmo reached the group stages.

Even if he didn't score against Hibs at the weekend, he was involved in both goals. The 28-year-old won the penalty for the first and, with a front post run, created the space for Tom Lawrence to run into and score the second.

Rangers face PSV in Eindhoven in the second leg of the Champions League play-off round.  (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)Rangers face PSV in Eindhoven in the second leg of the Champions League play-off round.  (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Rangers face PSV in Eindhoven in the second leg of the Champions League play-off round. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

He is a certainty to start. As are the back five of Jon McLaughlin in goals with James Tavernier, Connor Goldson, James Sands and Borna Barisic in front.

The latter has upped his game somewhat while Ridvan Yilmaz settles in and adapts. He may frustrate some fans with his forward passing but his quality from wide is not in doubt as showcased with his cross for the second against Hibs.

The question marks

It is the middle to front where there are some question marks.

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John Lundstram is another nailed on selection at the heart of midfield. Ryan Jack started alongside him at Hibs but the expectation would be Steven Davis will come in.

The Northern Irishman has not been a regular under Van Bronckhorst but has shown his quality when he plays, such as his first-time pass in the build-up to Colak's goal in the first-leg.

In the recently released UEFA technical report for last season's Europa League, his organising qualities and being that link between defence and attack was noted. The veteran is that player that can be trusted to handle the ball in.

Putting Jack in beside Lundstram and Davis would be too conservative an approach, while Glen Kamara is back in and has played as a more advanced midfielder under Van Bronckhorst. It isn't a role which suits him but would provide a better balance than Jack. Speculation, however, remains around his future.

Further forward Ryan Kent will start, as will Tom Lawrence providing he is fit after coming off against Hibs. The latter’s versatility and ability to break into the box and provide a goalscoring threat is hugely important.

If he doesn’t make it, Scott Arfield may be the most natural replacement.

For the third position there are three options: Rabbi Matondo, Malik Tillman and Scott Wright.

The former didn’t impress against Hibs and will likely have an impact role depending on the situation, while the latter has done a great job for Van Bronckhorst on the European stage before. Will provide plenty of graft out of possession and directness in it.

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Yet, it would be a surprise if Tillman wasn’t selected, playing centrally with Lawrence on the right. He was an unused sub against Hibs but is capable of those magic moments, taking the ball in tight areas, linking with Davis effectively, conjuring something out of nothing.

Suggested Rangers XI: McLaughlin; Tavenier, Goldson, Sands, Barisic; Davis Lundstram; Lawrence, Tillman, Kent; Colak.



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