Rangers vs SC BragaUEFA Europa League, KO: 20:00 Feb 20, 2020, Ibrox
SOME of Rangers' best displays this season have come in the Europa League and Steven Gerrard will be hoping the last-32 clash with SC Braga can help banish their domestic blues.
The Ibrox side were written off in many quarters when they drew Porto, Young Boys and Feyenoord in the group stage but produced some top-class displays to finish just a point behind the Portuguese giants.
Now they face opposition from the same country in the last 32 but Rangers' poor form since the turn of the year stands in stark contrast to the run Braga have been on since Ruben Amorim arrived as boss.
They head to Ibrox on the back of a nine-game unbeaten run, including two triumphs over Porto and a 1-0 win against Benfica at the Estadio da Luz. The only blot on Amorim's copybook since taking over has been a 2-2 draw with Gil Vincente so his players won't head to Ibrox with an inferiority complex.
Braga are also unbeaten in their last 13 European matches, a run that has included nine wins, and they topped their group ahead of a strong Wolves side.
So it will be a huge feather in Rangers' cap if they can get through and Gerrard will be hoping his troops can put their bad domestic form behind them.
The Ibrox men went into the winter break on a high, with a 2-1 win at Celtic Park giving them the chance to go top of the Premiership if they won their game in hand.
But defeats to Hearts and Kilmarnock, plus a stalemate at home to Aberdeen, have left them 10 points behind the champions.
How the bookies view it
Given their recent European record and stunning run of form, many punters will fancy a nibble at the 13/5 Betfred are offering on a Braga victory.
But Rangers haven't lost at home in 16 European games under Gerrard, winning 11. That explains why the Ibrox side are 127/100 favourites with Marathonbet while the draw is 49/20 with Unibet.
Head to head
These sides have never faced each other in Europe but Rangers have an excellent home record against Portuguese sides. They are unbeaten in eight games, winning six, and were deserved 2-0 victors over Porto in the group stage (below).
Braga have played in Scotland twice and lost both games, 3-1 to Hearts in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup then 2-1 to Celtic in the 2010/11 Champions League qualifiers.
Players to watch
The Colombian (below) has been out of sorts since the winter break, netting just once in six games, but remains the Europa League's top scorer. The great thing about Morelos is he keeps coming back for more and the striker looks overpriced again at 13/8 with Unibet here.
Braga have been spreading the goals around but Paulinho looks to be their biggest threat. He has 15 goals for the season, including four in the Europa League, and looks decent value at 2/1 with Paddy Power to net at Ibrox.
Anything else catch the eye?
The Ibrox pitch was flooded on Saturday, forcing Rangers' clash with Livingston to be held a day later, and it cut up badly during that 1-0 win.
The rain hasn't stopped since and Amorim has admitted the poor surface won't suit his side's slick passing game.
Gerrard has also spoken about taking a leaf out of Walter Smith's book and being more pragmatic in Europe so it doesn't bode well for a high-scoring game.
None of Rangers' three home games in the group stage featured over 2.5 strikes and I can't see that changing here. Under 2.5 strikes is a best 41/50 at Marathonbet but it should come up.
The card markets are always worth a flutter and Glen Kamara is a tempting 4/1 with Bet365 to be carded. The Rangers midfielder was the same odds in the away clash with Feyenoord and my tip came up that night so I'll have a punt on a repeat.
This UEFA Europa League match between Rangers and SC Braga will be played on Feb 20, 2020 and kick off at 20:00. Check below for our tipsters best Rangers vs SC Braga prediction.