The second leg against Legia Warsaw tomorrow night is likely to be a tight affair. The 0-0 from the first leg means Rangers can’t afford to be overly expansive at the risk of conceding an away goal.
Manager Steven Gerrard has said he is even anticipating penalties by getting his players to practice spot-kicks in training this week. So, how can the Gers break the deadlock at Ibrox and come out with a win? Here are three things the Light Blues must do to progress to the group stages of the Europa League:
1) Improved Crossing
Only one of Rangers’ 10 crosses reached a teammate in the first leg. That cross created a big chance as well with James Tavernier delivering superbly for Sheyi Ojo to head wide at the back post.
A 10% accuracy isn’t great, and it will be interesting to see who Gerrard picks on the wings tomorrow night. Jordan Jones started at St Mirren, and after having not featured in the first leg, the Northern Irishman is likely to play a more prominent role at Ibrox.
2) Better Passing Accuracy
Their trip to Warsaw coincided with Rangers recording their worst passing accuracy stats of the season. In the first leg, 80.44% of their passes were successful, that is 6.4% below their average for the season.
While playing away from home on an unfamiliar pitch can partly be blamed for such a stat, it also due to a lack of composure playing in a hostile atmosphere. You would hope that they will improve in this area in the return leg.
It’s far easier for a team to defend against you when you misplace passes, and while it won’t necessarily prove a deciding factor, passing accuracy will ratchet up the pressure on your opponents, especially if you keep the ball for long spells.
3) Try to catch them out on the counter-attack
Rangers only had four counter-attacking opportunities in the first leg, with none of them leading to shot. They may have even fewer chances on the counter if Legia decide to sit back at Ibrox.
If that happens, Rangers must improve the number of balls they recover from their opponents. They only managed 68 in Warsaw, which was a season low, and they will want to improve on that tomorrow night.
The best time to open up a defence can be when the opposition lose possession of the ball, especially high up the pitch. Gerrard will want to ensure that his side have a high press in play so they can win balls high up, and create openings.