Steven Gerrard will take his Rangers side to face Rapid Vienna at the Allianz Stadion on Thursday, aware that a win would carry them into the last 32 of the Europa League.
To simply reach the group stage of the competition was something of a victory for the Glasgow club, but they have more than held their own in a competitive pool and stand just 90 minutes from qualification.
Last time out, they showed their mettle against Villarreal by securing a 0-0 home draw, despite being reduced to 10 men in the first half, and Gerrard will want to see that spirit maintained against opponents who need only a point to qualify.
|Game||Rapid Vienna vs Rangers|
|Date||Thursday, December 13|
|Time||5:55pm GMT / 12:55pm ET|
TV Channel, Live Stream & How To Watch
In the United States (US), the game will not be broadcast on television but will be available to stream on Bleacher Report Live.
|US TV channel||Online stream|
In the United Kingdom (UK), the game can be watched live on BT Sport 3 and livestreamed on BT Sport Live.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
|BT Sport 3||BT Sport Live|
Squads & Team News
|Position||Rapid Vienna players|
|Goalkeepers||Strebinger, Knoflach, Haas, Gartler|
|Defenders||Muldur, Barac, Bolingoli, Sonnleitner, Dibon, Potzmann, Hofmann, Thurnwald, Auer|
|Midfielders||Schobesberger, Schwab, Berisha, Murg, Martic, Malicsek, Szanto, Knas, Ljubicic|
|Forwards||Pavlovic, Kostic, Alar, Gullemenot, Ivan|
Rapid Vienna have a number of selection headaches to contend with ahead of their midweek clash. Definitely ruled out are starting midfielder Tamas Szanto and striker Andrija Pavlovic, while Ivan Mocinic and Christopher Dibon are also absent.
There are doubts over Mario Sonnleitner and Marvin Potzmann, who both habitually feature in the defensive line.
Possible Rapid Vienna starting XI: Strebinger; Muldur, Barac, Hofmann, Auer; Martic, Schwab; Murg, Knasmullner, Bolingoli; Schobesberger
|Goalkeepers||McGregor, Foderingham, Halliday|
|Defenders||Tavernier, Goldson, Flanagan, Katic, Barisic, Worrall, McAuley|
|Midfielders||Jack, Ejaria, Halliday, Candeias, Coulibaly, Kent, Grezda, Arfield, Middleton|
|Forwards||Sadiq, Morelos, Lafferty|
Rangers boss Steven Gerrard is used to coping without long-term injured trio Lee Wallace, Jamie Murphy and Graham Dorrans, who will once again be sidelined.
It is hoped that Ryan Kent will be fit to feature, particularly as Daniel Candeias is banned after receiving a controversial red card against Villarreal.
Alvaro Morelos and Scott Arfield return after being banned for the weekend’s match against Dundee.
Possible Rangers starting XI: McGregor; Tavernier, McAuley, Goldson, Barisic; Jack, Arfield, Ejaria; Kent, Morelos, Middleton
Betting & Match Odds
Rapid Vienna are priced as 29/20 favourites to win this clash at bet365. Rangers are available at 2/1. A draw, meanwhile, is priced at 5/2.
No-one can criticise Rangers boss Steven Gerrard for lacking confidence. When asked by Joe which team will win the Europa League this season, he replied quickly: “Rangers.”
In reality, the Ibrox side’s challenge is on the edge of a knife. Their task on Thursday when they visit Vienna is a clear one: win or be eliminated.
Rangers have enjoyed a stunning return to form in Europe and with a little more luck would already have booked their passage through to the last 32. Gerrard will reflect upon trips to Villarreal and Spartak Moscow, in which his side led five times in total yet managed to pick up only one point.
A fortnight ago, meanwhile, they were unfortunate with Daniel Candeias’ red card against the Spaniards which left his side down to 10 men and reliant on two stunning Allan McGregor saves to deny Karl Toko-Ekambi to secure a share of the points.
Since that evening a fortnight ago, Rangers moved to the top of the Scottish Premiership table with a gutsy 2-1 win over Hearts only to promptly lose that status as they lost at home to Aberdeen and were then held 1-1 by 10-man Dundee.
Gerrard’s men, though, have typically reserved their best for European nights and that is the level they will have to hit once again.
Rapid Vienna will be well aware of Rangers’ threat, having suffered a 3-1 defeat in Scotland.
Head coach Dietmar Kuhbauer, who stepped into the role in October, has been unable to turn their domestic fortunes around – they still lie eighth in the Austrian Bundesliga – but a couple of wins over Spartak Moscow have them a point away from the last 32 of the Europa League, which would be a monumental achievement.
Philipp Schobesberger’s 91-minute winner against Spartak a fortnight ago may prove to be the decisive blow.