It’s do or die time for Rangers in the Champions League as only two wins from their final two games will be enough to guarantee progress to the knockout phase of the competition. If that wasn’t motivation enough, then the fact they’re currently on course for the dubious consolation of a place in the Europa League should be enough to elicit a few further ounces of effort from the players.
The effort begins with the visit of Manchester United to Ibrox. The Rangers defence enjoyed a surprisingly comfortable night at Old Trafford earlier in the group stages thanks to a performance defined by hard work and organisation and in front of their always vocal home support thoughts of a crucial three points aren’t without foundation. It’s hard to believe Phil Neville has scored more goals against Rangers (1) than all the Rangers players have managed in their short Champions League history against the Red Devils (0), but that’s a stat they need to put right immediately to have any hope of progress. In three games, the Gers have yet to get on the scoresheet against United, but with Kenny Miller in such sparkling form, they’ve a great opportunity to end the drought on Wednesday night. Miller bagged a hat-trick at the weekend to take his tally for the season to 18 and if you’re a believer in backing a striker when he’s in the middle of a purple patch, then the 15/2 for him to score the 1st goal of the game will certainly appeal.
Man Utd will have plenty of motivation all of their own. A win will guarantee their place in the Last 16 and combined with the right result in Spain will see them claim an unassailable lead at the top of Group C. For much of the season they’ve been about as impressive as spelling your own name correctly, but they’ve shown the gritty determination that characterises a manager with an intimate knowledge of the city he’s visiting. They’re unbeaten in competitive football since last March and will arrive in Scotland confident they’re capable of moving up a couple of gears and hitting a level of form more commonly associated with them.
The return of the prodigal contract negotiator, Wayne Rooney is big news in United ranks. His cameo against Wigan divided opinion, but as he gets more game time, they’ll be hoping he can return to his form of the past. Or hopefully be better than the shadow of Rooney we’ve been watching for most of 2010. With Dimitar Berbatov seemingly determined to prove his good early season form was a blip on his otherwise indifferent Old Trafford career, the burden of goalscoring will fall on the diminutive shoulders of Chicharito. The Mexican has made a smooth transition to life in England and the 9/2 for him to be 1st goalscorer is tempting.
Whatever happens, there won’t be much between the two sides. Depending on your point of view, the winning margin bets could be the way to go. Rangers to win by exactly one goal @ 11/2 covers several scoreline possibilities as does United to nick it by a single goal @ 12/5.
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