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Tuesday 6pm: Malmo v Rangers
Premier Sports 1
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Rangers enjoyed the perfect start to their Scottish Premiership title defence with a 3-0 win over Livingston at Ibrox on Saturday, but they come up against a road-tested, battle-hardened side that is in the middle of its league campaign. Malmo currently sit second in Sweden after 13 games and have come through two difficult Champions League qualifying rounds against Riga and HJK Helsinki.
The Swedish champions are unbeaten in their last seven games in all competitions, winning five and drawing two. They have won each of their last six home games, including both home Champions League qualifiers, and are unbeaten in their last 11 games at the Eleda Stadion.
Rangers, meanwhile, have played just one competitive game since winning their first Premiership title in a decade and were rarely tested in that comfortable win over Livingston. Steven Gerrard’s side did record an eye-catching win over Real Madrid in a pre-season friendly, but it’s dangerous to read into a game that consisted of 16 substitutions and a host of young players.
The Scottish champions may be forced to settle for a draw on Wednesday night, which would not be a disastrous result by any means.
Rangers claimed their first Scottish title in ten years last season largely thanks to their astonishing defensive record, conceding just 13 goals in 38 league games. However, their defensive record was far less impressive in Europe, where they conceded more goals in ten Europa League games than they did in their entire league campaign.
Gerrard’s side conceded two goals or more in five different Europa League games, whilst only conceded two or more in one Scottish league game.
They appear to struggle more against superior continental sides and could similarly struggle against a Malmo side that has scored at least six more goals than any other team in the Swedish Allsvenskan. The Swedish champions have scored an average of more than two goals per game in the league this season and have found the back of the net in every single league and Champions League game that they have played this season.
It seems likely that they will maintain that impressive record on Wednesday given Rangers’ apparent defensive frailties in Europe.
Antonio Colak has spearheaded Malmo’s impressive attack throughout 2021, scoring seven league goals in 11 games and, more importantly, scoring three goals in four Champions League qualifiers. His goals have proved vital in Malmo’s bid for Champions League football and proved the difference in their wins over Riga and HJK. He has scored seven of his ten goals this season at home and is by far and away Malmo’s biggest goal threat.
The 27-year-old Croatian forward has scored more European goals in his last four games than he managed in the rest of his career and seems to have found a new lease of life since moving to Sweden. He can continue his excellent form against Rangers on Wednesday night.
Rangers will set out to dominate Wednesday’s tricky encounter and should have plenty of territory despite their lack of competitive match practice. Gerrard’s side dominated possession in the Scottish Premiership last season, averaging almost 67% possession across the 38-game league campaign.
They also averaged nearly seven corners per game over the same period. Their possession fell closer to 50% in Europa League games, while their corner count dipped closer to four, but they dominated both possession and corners in their Europa League qualifiers last summer against sides of a similar quality to Malmo.
They are undoubtedly the favourites to progress from the two-legged tie and will be expected to take the initiative in both legs.
Gerrard’s side should dominate proceedings and it would be hugely surprising if they failed to win more than four corners on Wednesday night as they press for an early advantage in the tie.
Both Teams to Score
Antonio Colak to Score Anytime
Over 4.5 Rangers Corners
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