Gers can punish a nervy home defence

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Borussia Dortmund v Rangers

Thursday, 17:45

Live on BT Sport

A crucial night for GvB

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst takes his Rangers side to Germany for this Europa League Round of 32 match. Following a shake-up of the structure, this stage has become a playoff involving the runners up of the Europa League groups and the third-place finishers from the Champions League groups.

With Barcelona, Zenit, Atalanta, Sevilla and RB Leipzig in the hat, there’s no denying the draw could have been tougher on Rangers. In Borussia Dortmund, they face one of the big names of European football and in Erling Haaland, one of the best attackers in the world.

Much has changed for Rangers since their last Europa League outing. The Gers are now second in the Scottish Premiership following Celtic’s fightback, meaning the current Scottish champions may view this tournament as a distraction to defending their title.

Haaland’s race to be fit

Dortmund posted third in Group C behind Ajax and Sporting Lisbon while finishing ahead of Besiktas. When the draw was made, that was a pool Borussia were expected to progress from without encountering too much fuss. Many pundits picked them as group winners, but three wins against three defeats saw Dortmund miss out on Champions League knockout football by the narrowest of margins.

Their domestic form hasn’t been too much better, suffering a jaw-dropping loss to St Pauli in the DFB Cup last month. That game ended 2-1 with the underdogs racing into a 2-0 lead before Haaland cut the deficit with a penalty scored on 58 minutes. The BVB scorer that day is in a desperate push to be fit for this game, and he was forced to watch on from the sidelines as his team were thrashed 5-2 by Bayer Leverkusen at this venue recently.

Rangers shock European football

Rangers fans would prefer to see Haaland miss this match, but van Bronckhorst knows he must focus on his squad, and they are in great shape following an exciting winter transfer window. Rangers pulled off the deal of transfer deadline day when convincing Welshman Aaron Ramsey to swap Juventus for Rangers on a short-term loan deal. Ramsay is eager to get vital game time ahead of his nation’s vital World Cup playoff this year.

Rangers shocked European football with the signing of Ramsay, but can they do it again by eliminating Dortmund from the Europa League? To stand any chance of achieving that, the Scots must ensure the tie remains competitive, heading to Ibrox next week. Ramsay played an hour in the Scottish Cup on Saturday. Several key players returning from injury will join him in Germany, including Ryan Jack, Leon Balogun and Filip Helander. This match comes at the right time with the visitors at full strength.

It’s dangerous to write Rangers off

There have been no surprises in the pre-match betting with Borussia Dortmund trading as 1.454/9 favourites on the Betfair Exchange. That quote suggests this will be a matter of how many the hosts win by, but, having drawn 1-1 with Lyon in France in December, it’s always difficult to write Rangers off, especially on the big occasion.

Securing a stunning away win would put Gers in the driving seat for a place in the next round, and Rangers can be backed for a famous away win at 87/1. Taking a draw to Govan would pile pressure on an already nervy BVB, and the level finish is available at 54/1.

Expect excitement

The focus for Rangers is winning the Premiership and securing an automatic spot in next season’s money-spinning Champions League. In recent years, the light blues have enjoyed some impressive performances in the Europa League, and they shouldn’t be too far out their depth over two legs. The result of this match will determine how Rangers approach the second leg at Ibrox.

Borussia Dortmund conceded five goals against Leverkusen, two at Hoffenheim and those two away to St Pauli in the cup. Over 2.5 goals in this match look worth a bet at 1.625/8 with both teams to score sure to keep this match exciting at 1.8810/11.

All the talk centres on striker Haaland, but in Alfredo Morelos, Rangers have a scorer who loves to shine on the big stage. He is back playing his best football and scoring goals under GvB with the help of legendary striker and current Gers coach Roy Makaay. Back El Buffalo to find the net.