Europa League: Old Firm face tough tests on week one of the group campaign

Rangers Steven Gerrard
Gerrard has already upset the odds to reach the group stages
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A busy night for British sides in the Europa League. Betfair's football writer Frankie Monkhouse previews the chances of Rangers and Celtic...

"The two previous meetings of these sides have both ended in a draw – 2-2 at Ibrox and 1-1 at El Madrigal. The Scots would surely see a repeat performance as a good result"

Yellow Submarine have struggled in La Liga

Villarreal v Rangers
Thursday, 17:55
Live on BT Sport

Villarreal and Rangers meet for the first time since 2006 and only the third in history as the sides contest three Europa League points in Group G. With Rapid Vienna and Spartak Moscow making up what promises to be an ultra-competitive pool, home manager Javier Calleja will understand the importance of a strong start.

The Yellow Submarine are hot favourites to defeat their Scottish opponents, as you would expect, but they have been less than convincing in their four La Liga matches so far, winning one, drawing one and suffering a pair of defeats. That has the locals down in 13th, one point better than the relegation zone, but they did boost team morale with a hard-fought 1-0 weekend win over Leganes on the road. A timely shot in the arm, Colombian Carlos Bacca netting on 65 minutes.

Blues travel with confidence

Rangers returned from an Old Firm defeat at Celtic Park and international break to hammer Dundee 4-0 at Ibrox on Saturday, lifting Steven Gerrard's blues to fourth in the Premiership. A match dominated by the victors - 64% possession and 19 shots at goal - the final score probably should've been higher, but fans were delighted to cheer the team back to winning ways. Goals from Coulibaly, Kent, Tavernier and Middleton made light work of what could've been a difficult match, piling pressure on Dee manager Neil McCann.

With five league games, a cup match and eight Europa League qualifiers already in their legs, as well as a number of important players returning to full fitness, Gerrard will be confident of pushing hard for a place in the next round of this competition. A winning start would certainly help them achieve that but everyone in the away dressing room on Thursday night will be well aware of the size of the job at hand here.

Gerrard to build from the back

The two previous meetings of these sides have both ended in a draw - 2-2 at Ibrox and 1-1 at El Madrigal. The Scots would surely see a repeat performance as a good result and backers can have a go at 5.49/2 on the Betfair Exchange. The home win is currently 1.351/3 with an upset priced at a chunky 12.5. That'll catch the attention of the travelling support.

Rangers reached the group stages of this competition building off a watertight defence, keeping clean-sheets at Shkupi, Osijek and Maribor. This is a major step up in class, but Gerrard will set-up to frustrate the hosts and silence the crowd. No in the both teams to score market is top price 4/6 on the Sportsbook where you'll also find under 2.5 goals at evens.

Bhoys have the measure of Troillongan

Celtic v Rosenborg
Thursday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport

Celtic welcome Rosenborg back to Glasgow less than two months after knocking the Norwegians out of the Champions League. The Hoops strolled to a convincing 3-1 win over the Troll Children at Parkhead thanks to a double from Edouard, sandwiched between a Ntcham strike. Rosenborg scored first that day, Meling breaking the deadlock on 15 minutes, but The Bhoys were well worth their victory and followed it with a goalless draw in the return leg a few days later.

The home side take heart from a 1-0 Old Firm win before the international break, but they've struggled to nail down a run of consistency in the league and again dropped points on Friday night, fighting out a 0-0 draw away to lowly St Mirren. They're second in the league but trail pace-setters Hearts by five points, The Jambos boasting a 100% record.

Leaky defence will be punished

Rini Coolen remains at the helm and he appears to be doing a fine job in the short-term at the Lerkendal Stadion. The visitors are top of the Norwegian Eliteserien, claiming maximum points in their last five games. A record of 15-4-3 has them two ahead of nearest rivals Brann with 22 games played.

Rosenborg were involved in a thrilling weekend win over Valerenga on Sunday afternoon, edging the points by the odd goal in five. Levi, Jaager OG and Jebali scored the goals that mattered but they needed a 95th minute winner to get over the line. A good warmup for Thursday but if the defence is as generous at Parkhead they'll be severely punished. Neutrals will be hoping for another goal-fest and they might just get it.

More of the same for Celtic

Celtic were in better shape when thrashing Rosenborg back in the summer but there's no reason why they can't go and score a few goals again here. With The Bhoys bagging three last time and their opponents conceding two against lesser opposition on Sunday it's difficult to make a strong case for the away win. There's 7.26/1 on the Exchange the points head off with RBK at full-time, 4.47/2 the draw.

A home win is favourite - 1.51/2 available at last check - and that's sure to show up in more than a few midweek accumulators. There's better to be had though and both teams to score gets the nod at a useful 10/11 (Betfair Sportsbook). That very bet would've landed you a profit when the rivals last faced-off at this venue.

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