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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Rangers and Villarreal could produce a cagey affair

Gers' return to group action may not be memorable

Rangers skipper James Tavernier
1 of 1

Europa League Group G
BT Sport 3, 5.55pm Thursday

Former Champions League winner Steven Gerrard knows all about the importance of a solid start to a European campaign and that’s what he’ll be expecting his Rangers side can pull off in El Madrigal.

The Gers’ return to group-stage football after an eight-year absence is a tough one against a highly respected Villarreal side who finished fifth in La Liga last season and reached the last 32 of the Europa League, where they succumbed to Lyon.

The layers are in no doubt that the top-notch Spanish outfit will have too much for the Ladbrokes Premiership club, and they could well be right.

However, the odds about Javi Calleja’s home boys look short enough at this fledgling stage of their season.

And it’s a season which hasn’t started well for them. Their two home games in La Liga ended in defeats to Sociedad and Girona. They chalked up their first win of the season on Sunday at the fourth time of asking, an uninspiring 1-0 success at Leganes.

They have plenty of quality, but Calleja is yet to get the best out of the likes of Miguel Layun, Carlos Bacca and 33-year-old Santi Cazorla, who is still feeling his way back after the longest of layoffs.

Villarreal’s first four games this season have produced just five goals.

As for Rangers, this is their 14th game of the season and their ninth in the Europa League.

They have lost only one of their previous 13, a 1-0 defeat by Celtic.

In Europe, they have been watchful and respectful against some awkward opponents. Only one of their eight ties to date has produced more than two goals and that’s a signpost for a bet on a low score in their Group G curtain-raiser.

Under 2.5 goals
1pt 43-40 bet365

Bet on this match at

Team news
Carlos Bacca is likely to start up front after coming off the bench to net Villarreal's winner against Leganes on Sunday.

Steve Gerrard could be without eight first-team players for the trip to Spain including suspended pair Alfredo Morelos and Jon Flanagan.

Key stat
Villarreal’s four games this season have produced just five goals.

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Villarreal’s first four games this season have produced just five goals
E.W. Terms
Sky bet