Rangers face a tough away fixture against NK Maribor in Slovenia tonight as they bid to reach the Europa League group stages via a two-legged play-off.
Ally McCoist’s men are slight favourites at 27/20 to overcome their less illustrious opponents, who are rated as underdogs at slightly longer odds of 9/5, with the draw priced at 21/10.
The Gers’ shock exit in the Champions League third-round qualifying stage against Malmo may have affected the mentality of the Glasgow side going into this battle, but they will be buoyed by their 2-0 away win against Inverness Caledonian Thistle in last Saturday’s SPL encounter. Maribor, meanwhile, enter this clash top of their domestic league after a 0-0 draw with title rivals Domzale.
Football betting fans with long memories will know that this is not the first meeting between the sides, as Rangers registered a 3-0 success over Maribor in a Champions League qualifier in 2001.
However, a similar outcome tonight seems unlikely, especially as Rangers’ away form in Europe has been shocking recently. They have not won on the road since a 2-0 triumph over Sporting Lisbon in a Europa League quarter-final second leg in April 2008, with the Gers reaching the final that year before losing to Zenit St Petersburg. In fact, their continental record as a whole has been poor for some time now, with just one victory in their past 23 matches in the Champions League and the Europa League combined.
A draw at full-time in Maribor is perhaps the safest option, then, and is available at a generous 21/10 at bwin.com. Rangers’ last two continental trips saw them draw 1-1 in Sweden with Malmo and 1-1 in Turkey against Bursaspor in December 2010. A third 1-1 in succession against Maribor looks to be an excellent bet with odds of 23/4, while punters can back both teams to score at 83/100.
Rangers are without defensive duo David Weir and Kyle Bartley, who miss out through injury. Lee McCulloch and Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty have travelled with the squad, although McCoist is unlikely to risk the latter. Lafferty’s expected absence will be a deadly blow to Rangers, and will limit their goalscoring prowess significantly.
Without Lafferty, a dull 0-0 draw – available at tempting betting odds of 7/1 – is also a strong possibility. New customers who join bwin.com can use their free £25 bet on this outcome and stand to win £200 if the result comes in.
But what seems clear is that it will not be as easy as the 2001 encounter for Rangers and they could struggle to grab a first-leg victory in Maribor. The SPL champions won’t be too disappointed with a score draw and should have enough to secure victory in the tie in the return clash at Ibrox next week.
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