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Rangers struggled to create chances in their last away game in the Europa League, and that could be the case again here.
Back RB Leipzig to win to nil (-140)
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RB Leipzig are the new favorites to win the Europa League. Barcelona’s surprise elimination at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt in the quarter-finals has opened the door to any of the four clubs that remain in the competition, but it is hard to argue with Leipzig’s status as favorites. After a disappointing start, this could yet be the best season in the club’s history.
That history is nowhere near as long as the vast majority of clubs in Europe. Rangers, their upcoming opponents, were founded 137 years before Leipzig came into existence in 2009. But while the involvement of Red Bull has always been controversially, particularly given the traditional nature of German soccer, there is no real argument against the contention that the owners have done a fine job of making Leipzig a force at home and abroad.
Even so, die Roten Bullen found themselves in a sticky spot a few months ago. Julian Nagelsmann’s departure to Bayern Munich left Leipzig with a managerial vacancy to fill. They opted for the continuity candidate in Jesse Marsch, who knew the club’s ethos well from his time with the New York Red Bulls and Red Bull Salzburg. However, Marsch’s attempts to restore Leipzig’s identity as a pressing side first and foremost failed to take off and he was dismissed in December.
At the time Leipzig were 11th in the Bundesliga. Fast forward to the end of April and they are now in the top four. Only Bayern Munich have collected more points than Leipzig since Domenico Tedesco was installed in the dugout. His side are now chasing silverware in the Europa League and the DFB-Pokal, where Freiburg await in next month’s final. Leipzig have never won a major trophy before; they could get their hands on two in the coming weeks.
Rangers are not quite out of the Scottish Premiership title race just yet, but even the club’s most ardent supporter would have to concede they are unlikely to finish on top of the pile from this position. A six-point gap to Celtic will surely prove insurmountable with just four rounds of fixtures left to fulfil, but Rangers still have plenty to play for – as well as the Europa League, they are through to the Scottish Cup final.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side are the underdogs both in this tie and in the competition as a whole, but they will not particularly mind that. No one expected Rangers to make it this far, so the pressure is off to an extent.
Making it to the last four of the Europa League is an even bigger accomplishment when you consider Van Bronckhorst was handed the reins midway through the campaign after Steven Gerrard left for Aston Villa.
Rangers reached the final of this competition in 2008, but the Scottish league is not as strong now as it was then. That is another reason why the Gers have done so well this term. Their aggregate victory over Borussia Dortmund in the knockout round play-offs remains the standout result, but Rangers then held their nerve to beat Braga and Red Star Belgrade and reach the semi-finals. Write them off at your peril.
Rangers know that their best chance of victory is by winning the second leg. Ibrox produces one of the best atmospheres in European football, and no visiting side relishes playing there. Rangers lost the away legs to Red Star Belgrade and Braga, but triumphs in front of their own fans secured their progression on both occasions.
Van Bronckhorst would never admit it publicly, but he would probably settle for a narrow defeat on Thursday. Rangers would fancy their chances of overturning a one-goal deficit in Glasgow, but a more sizable loss would leave them in a difficult position.
Rangers were mediocre in the away leg against Braga in the quarter-finals. They struggled to create chances in Portugal and were ultimately beaten 1-0. Fashioning clear-cut opportunities will be even more difficult against Leipzig, who are a superior side to Braga. Three clean sheets in their last five outings in all competitions shows that Tedesco’s team are solid when they need to be.
With that in mind, a home win to nil is the way to go in this one. Whether or not the tie is still alive will depend on how many goals RB Leipzig get.
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|RB Leipzig vs Rangers Information
|RB Leipzig vs Rangers
|Red Bull Arena, Leipzig, Germany
|Thursday, 28 April 2022, 3.00 PM EDT
|How to watch
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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