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Value Bet: Dundee United (+2)
Rangers may have scored late on against Malmo to avert all-out catastrophe on Wednesday night, but there is still plenty of work to be done if Steven Gerrard’s side are to advance to the Champions League play-off round. That 2-1 defeat, coupled with the upcoming second leg at Ibrox on Tuesday night, means that Saturday afternoon’s trip to Dundee United is nothing more than an unwelcome distraction.
The Gers won the league by a whopping 25 points last season and, with Celtic looking even worse this time around, it seems like Gerrard’s side won’t be made to sweat too much in order to retain their Scottish crown.
With that in mind, Gerrard can probably afford to cast one eye on Tuesday’s mammoth clash with Malmo by risking a league game at an insignificant stage of the season when Rangers have already established a buffer over the near rivals. Dundee United, on the other hand, have far more to play for and will hope to avoid starting the term with successive defeats that would probably leave them rooted to the foot of the table.
They caused problems for The Old Firm sides at Tannadice last season and will look to do so again here as they bid to retain their Scottish Premiership status for a second season running. They may ultimately fall short of a result on Saturday, even if Rangers do have one eye on their date with Malmo, but they should avoid a hammering.
The Shorty: Both teams to score? No
The defence of the Scottish champions may have failed them badly on Wednesday in Sweden, but its record domestically over the past 12 months has been utterly remarkable. Gerrard’s men have conceded just 13 goals in 39 league games since the start of last season and have kept a staggering 27 clean sheets in that time frame. Dundee United were one of six clubs who managed to breach the Rangers’ defence and, to their credit, did so on two separate occasions which ultimately ended in Rangers victories.
However, Rangers opened their Scottish Premiership campaign with a run of seven straight clean sheets last season, allowing them to steal an early march on Celtic in their bid to thwart a historic 10-in-a-row.
A similarly impressive start to this campaign would all but end the Scottish title race before it even begins, and Rangers will be confident of shutting out a Dundee United side that barely registered a shot in anger in their opening day defeat to Aberdeen – and scored the fewest number of goals of any Scottish Premiership club last season.
Even with the distraction of a crucial tie with Malmo on Tuesday night, Rangers should have enough defensive nous to keep their opponents at arm’s length.
Saturday 12:30 – Dundee United v Rangers
Sky Sports Football
Long(ish) Shot: Rangers to win 1-0
Rangers were impeccable home and away last season, but their away form was undeniably inferior to their perfect home record. Gerrard’s side boasted an incredible record at Ibrox, winning 19 out of 19 league games and scoring an average of exactly three goals per game – conceding just four goals in the process.
While their stats were still incredible away from home, it was admittedly far less impressive. Rangers drew six of their 19 away games, scoring 35 goals (an average of just under two goals per game) and conceding nine.
Their most common away result last season was a 1-1 draw, followed by a 1-0 win, and they struggle somewhat against a Dundee United side that boasted by far the best defence of the bottom five last season, especially in the absence of Alfredo Morelos due to quarantine.
With one eye cast on Tuesday’s Champions League qualifier, Gerrard would be more than happy to take an unconvincing 1-0 win at Tannadice.
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