|Europa League, Group G: Rangers v Young Boys|
|Venue: Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow Date: Thursday, 12 December Time: 20:00 GMT|
|Coverage: Updates on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW & digital and online commentary on the BBC Sport website|
The tightest of all 12 Europa League groups comes to a fittingly claustrophobic conclusion on Thursday, with Rangers hoping to squeeze out Swiss visitors Young Boys for a place in the last 32.
The Scottish Premiership side top the section, but all four teams can still qualify and are separated by just three points. Rangers are guaranteed qualification if they take at least a point, while defeat would also be enough if Porto fail to beat Feyenoord at home in the other game.
Young Boys, who beat Luzern 1-0 at home on Saturday and are one point clear of Basel at the top of the Swiss Super League, are definitely through with a win and can also make it with a point if Porto are beaten.
For Steven Gerrard, who has confirmed he is set to extend his stay as Rangers manager, a place in the knockout rounds would represent progress having led the club to the group stage in his first season at the helm.
And it would also provide an immediate boost after the despair of Sunday’s League Cup final loss to Celtic.
That defeat means Rangers have just one victory in their last four games across all competitions, but they have been imperious at Ibrox in Europe under Gerrard. He remains unbeaten at home in 13 European matches, winning 10, including the last six in a row.
Sweden centre-back Filip Helander misses out for Rangers after having a scan on the foot injury that forced him off in the second half of Sunday’s League Cup final defeat. Influential midfielder Steven Davis is sidelined with a calf issue, while winger Jordan Jones is back in training after three months out with a knee injury but not ready for selection.
French striker Guillaume Hoarau is back from injury for Young Boys, but they still have a six-strong casualty list with defenders Fabian Lustenberger and Mohamed Ali Camara, plus midfielders Vincent Sierro, Sandro Lauper, Miralem Sulejmani and Gianluca Gaudino, all expected to be absent.
What they said
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard: “I don’t think a Rangers team has ever topped a European group. And, if you think about where the club was at when we arrived, to potentially going through top, it is great for the club for many reasons.”
Young Boys head coach Gerardo Seoane: “We can’t think about the consequences of not qualifying. We are going to Glasgow to win.”
What happened last time?
Rangers suffered their only defeat of Group G – and first European loss in 10 games – when they fell to an injury-time sucker punch in Switzerland. Gerrard’s side led through Alfredo Morelos and were on track for a well-deserved point after Roger Assale’s leveller. But a slip by captain James Tavernier was pounced upon by Christian Fassnacht, who slammed in a 93rd-minute winner to deprive the Scots of top spot on match-day two.
‘Rangers fans remain optimistic’ – analysis
Former Northern Ireland and Motherwell centre-half Stephen Craigan on BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound
Of course Sunday was a huge disappointment for Rangers, but they look as if they are back to where they should be. They seem to be on the right track with a manager who has class and charisma, is world renowned and he is certainly making strides while making mistakes as he goes.
Tomorrow night is a huge game for him. Not winning on Sunday adds pressure.
Former Celtic and Scotland striker Craig Beattie on BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound
The people I speak to, the majority of Rangers fans are happy with Steven Gerrard and are happy with the team and the performances.
They are loving life at the minute, they are doing particularly well in Europe and an opportunity to win their group
Given that Celtic have beaten them twice already this season, Rangers fans remain optimistic and are happy with the direction they are going.
I think they would be disappointed if they didn’t win the group because, if they don’t, the calibre of opposition can become a lot harder because you have Champions League drop-outs.
- Rangers have won their last seven games at Ibrox since a 2-0 loss to Celtic in the Scottish Premiership in September.
- Should they beat Young Boys, Rangers will be guaranteed winners of Group G; Rangers have not finished top during the group stages of a European tournament since 2006-07 in the Uefa Cup under Paul Le Guen.
- This is the first time Rangers have hosted Young Boys since a 1-0 Cup Winners Cup qualifying win in August 1977 and the first time they have hosted Swiss opposition since beating Grasshoppers 2-1 in the 1996-97 Champions League group stage.
- Young Boys have never won away against British sides in six attempts, losing five times, with the Swiss side failing to score in four of those games.
- Nine of Young Boys’ last 10 wins in all European competitions have been on home soil – their last away win in Europe was against Dinamo Zagreb in Champions League qualifying in August 2018.
- Three of Alfedo Morelos’ five goals in the Europa League this season for Rangers have been assisted by Borna Barisic – it is the most one player has assisted another in the competition in 2019-20.