St Joseph's vs RangersUEFA Europa League, KO: 17:00 Jul 9, 2019, Victoria Stadium
THE grind to reach the Europa League group stages begins in Gibraltar for Rangers against part-time opposition in the shape of St Joseph's.
Raul Procopio's minnows are massive underdogs to win this game and that is reflected in the 33/1 (BetVictor) on offer for St Joseph's to shock the Scottish giants and even the draw would be a surprise at 11/1 (BetVictor) with the same firm
The Ibrox outfit are odds on favourites at 1/12 (William Hill) and as such punters will have to be shrewd in trying to source some Rangers value at the Victoria Stadium.
Yet, St Joseph's will be buoyant going into this battle on the back of winning in Europe for the first time ever against Prishtina of Kosovo in the preliminary-round.
Furthermore, this fixture for St Joseph's represents the biggest game in their history – so much so that the Saints will be desperate to do the unthinkable and stun Steven Gerard's men.
It's only been 51 days since Gerrard last seen his side in competitive action but he has since reinforced his squad with seven Summer signings with the likes of Joe Aribo, Jordan Jones and Greg Stewart checking in at Ibrox during the close season.
More importantly the Gers have thus far managed to retain the services of club captain James Tavernier and the much-maligned Alfredo Morelos – both of whom have been linked with big money moves out of Scotland after performing admirably during Gerrard's maiden season in management.
Morleos sat out Rangers 5-0 friendly win over Oxford on Sunday with a groin strain but the Colombian is expected to be named in the Rangers squad for this Europa League qualifier.
Whether or not Morelos starts this game remains to be seen and if not Jermain Defoe will almost certainly lead the attack.
Defoe ended last season in superb form for Rangers and the veteran forward has netted two goals in three games during pre-season and should he get the nod then he could be worth backing to score the first goal of the game at 5/2 (Bet 365)
Given the gulf in class between these two teams goals could flow in Gibraltar and a comfortable win here for Rangers would afford Gerrard the luxury of rotating his squad during the return leg in Govan next week.
What's more I suspect that the semi-professional hosts will tire in the latter stages of this encounter and that Rangers could capitalise with their superior quality and fitness levels.
With that in mind I like the look of the 21/20 (William Hill) on offer for the second half to be the highest scoring half.
Having scored in their last four European outings St Joseph's will believe that they can score against their Scottish opponents, but Procopio's men will most likely set up to frustrate and restrict Rangers and hit them on the counter-attack.
However, Rangers route to the Europa League group stages last season was built on solid defensive displays – they kept three clean sheets in their first three away trips – and I suspect it will be a similar start to this qualifying campaign.
Therefore, an alternative angle to contemplate in trying to generate some profit from Gibraltar may be to opt for Rangers to Win to Nil at 17/20 (BetVictor)
This UEFA Europa League match between St Joseph's and Rangers will be played on Jul 9, 2019 and kick off at 17:00