Jake Pearson previews Rangers' first match in the Europe League proper, with Steven Gerrard's men taking on Lyon, and he thinks caution could be the order of the day.
1pt Under 2.5 Goals at 6/5 (Unibet)
Since losing their unbeaten league record via a 1-0 defeat to Dundee United on the second week of the season, Rangers have barely put a foot wrong, winning each of their succeeding SPL matches and returning to the summit of the league; already three points clear of Celtic, largely thanks to their 1-0 win in the Old Firm derby.
While domestically Rangers look set for another good season, Steven Gerrard will be keen to take his side to the next level, and progression in Europe is exactly how they do that.
Rangers stumbled their way through qualification for the Europa League, twice losing to Malmo in their Champions League qualification tie, before scraping past Armenian side Alashkert by an aggregate scoreline of 1-0.
Group A is not a particularly straight forward group for Rangers to navigate, but they are fancied to progress; heavy odds-on in fact to qualify, with Lyon favourites to top the group.
Lyon, who finished fourth in Ligue 1 last season, started the campaign out of sorts, drawing at home to Brest and losing away at Angers in their opening two matches; both games they were odds-on to win.
They got their first points on the board with a victory over Nantes prior to the international break, and they followed that up with a 3-1 win over Strasbourg at the weekend.
Losing main man Memphis Depay to Barcelona in the summer was a big blow for Lyon – the Dutchman was involved in 32 goals in the French league last season – and it has been notable this season, the French side’s average goal per game ratio dropping from 2.13 to 1.6.
They have received a boost ahead of their trip to Glasgow however, with a trio of players thought unable to play having been granted a quarantine exemption by the Scottish Government. Tino Kadewere, Bruno Guimaraes and Lucas Paqueta have all been given the green light to play against Rangers after returning from international duty in red list countries.
If the betting is to be believed, then these are two very evenly matched teams.
Both sides are around 8/5 to win the match, while the goal spreads for each team are very similar, meaning the attacking and defensive output of both sides are rated more or less the same.
The points could well be shared in this fixture, and that makes backing either side to win unappealing.
The best angle into this match looks to be through opposing goals, with UNDER 2.5 GOALS priced up as the outsider of the two possible outcomes.
Rangers’ attacking intensity has dropped off this season, the Gers averaging 1.5 goals per match, as opposed to their 2.42 average of last season in the SPL, while without Memphis Depay, Lyon have also struggled to create chances this season, winning the expected goals battle in just one of their four Ligue 1 fixtures.
Given the usually cautious nature of a European group stage opener between the two sides strongly fancied to finish first and second in the group, taking on goals makes plenty of sense in this fixture.
Score prediction: Rangers 1-1 Lyon (Sky Bet odds: 11/2)
Odds correct at 0840 BST (15/09/21)
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