EUROPE: Champions League
Time: 8:00 PM
Venue: Ibrox Stadium (Glasgow)
Rangers’ hopes of a first UEFA Champions League (UCL) group stage appearance since 2010/11 hang by a thread, after a 2-1 first-leg defeat to Swedish champions Malmö. The Glaswegians will be feeling a sense of déjà vu, as their last UCL qualifying run ended after a first-leg defeat to the same opposition a decade ago, which they followed up only with a draw.
Current odds imply that a second-leg home tie this time around should spur on the ‘Gers’ to rewrite history and enact vengeance. Indeed, Rangers have lost just once in 31 competitive games at home (W28, D2, L1 – 90 mins), with 20 of those wins beating a -1 handicap.
Malmö looked battle-hardened in the first-leg, having played two UCL qualifying rounds while being 14 games into their domestic season already. Riding a nine-game undefeated streak (W6, D3), they will be confident of going one round further than their last UCL qualification effort in 2018/19, in search of ending their six-year absence from the UCL group stage.
Both previous rounds of this UCL qualification campaign have seen Malmö win the first leg by a one-goal margin at home, then travel away and secure a score-draw to advance. Both previous away legs in Malmö’s current UCL adventure have seen them avoid trailing at HT, though they did concede last on both occasions, giving this clash ample potential for a late twist.
Players to watch: One of two survivors from the H2H tie ten years ago, Steven Davis was Rangers’ goal scorer in the first leg, crucially halving the deficit in the 95th minute. In opposition, Malmö’s Veljko Birmančević could be a danger right to the bitter end, as his last seven goals have come in the second half, including his decisive first-leg strike.
Rangers’ form in last 5 matches: LLWWD.
Malmo FF’s form in last 5 matches: DWDWWW.