Rangers’ eye-catching 6-4 aggregate triumph over Dortmund in the preliminary knockout round gives the Ibrox faithful every reason for optimism ahead of the Serbian outfit’s visit on Thursday.
Led by ex-Inter Milan star Dejan Stankovic, the reigning Serbian champions finished top of Europa League Group F, albeit as the lowest-scoring section winners with just six goals under their belt.
Despite losing their opening two Europa League Group A matches without scoring, Rangers bounced back to secure a runner-up finish behind Lyon with a game to spare.
After sealing their record-equalling third consecutive Europa League last-16 appearance, the Scottish Premiership holders are looking to make it to the quarter-finals for the very first time.
Rangers will turn to their decent home form in European football for inspiration, having suffered just five defeats in their last 31 European outings at Ibrox (W19, D7).
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men have not lost any of their last 13 competitive home fixtures (W10, D3), including a 2-2 draw with Dortmund in their most recent European game in Glasgow.
Red Star Belgrade
Belgrade eked out a top-place finish in Europa League Group F with 11 points (W3, D2, L1), going unbeaten in all three away games in the group phase (W1, D2).
But a lack of scoring prowess saw Stankovic’s side net one goal or less in five of their six Group F matches, while they have yet to score before half-time in the Europa League proper this term.
Although they have failed to entertain on their travels, Red Star are unbeaten in nine of their last 11 away fixtures in the Europa League proper (W3, D6).
That is mainly thanks to a water-tight backline that has kept five clean sheets in six competitive outings since the calendar year flipped to 2022.
Ianis Hagi, Amad Diallo and Steven Davis are all set to sit out Rangers’ first leg at home due to injuries, while Aaron Ramsey and Filip Helander remain injury doubts.
Angers loanee Lois Diony is unavailable after sustaining a muscle problem, but Red Star boss Stankovic hopes to have prodigious midfielder Veljko Nikolic back from an ankle injury.
Rangers Potential Starting XI:
(4-3-3): Allan McGregor; Borna Barisic, Connor Goldson, Calvin Bassey, James Tavernier; Joe Aribo, Glen Kamara, Ryan Jack; Ryan Kent, Alfredo Morelos, Fashion Sakala.
Red Star Belgrade Potential Starting XI:
(4-3-3): Milan Borjan; Milan Rodic, Strahinja Erakovic, Aleksandar Dragovic, Milan Gajic; Guelor Kanga, Mirko Ivanic, Nenad Krsticic; El Fardou Ben, Aleksandar Katai Ohi Omoijuanfo.
Rangers vs Red Star Belgrade Prediction
Red Star’s defensive stubbornness could prove key to the visitors’ hopes of avoiding defeat at Ibrox as they are unlikely to push forward in numbers.
We expect Rangers to keep possession in a keenly-contested, low-scoring affair and take a narrow lead into the return leg in Belgrade.
Rangers 1-0 Red Star Belgrade.
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