RANGERS face Braga in Portugal tonight with a slender 3-2 advantage after producing a remarkable comeback in the first leg at Ibrox last Thursday.

Trailing by two goals to nil with an hour played and having been thoroughly outplayed, the Ibrox club were teetering over the precipice of elimination from the Europa League before Ianis Hagi sparked Steven Gerrard's side into life with an excellent finish.

Joe Aribo then pulled the hosts level with a wonderful slaloming run with 15 minutes to play before Hagi's deflected free-kick capped a memorable night for Rangers.

But, despite the advantage that Gerrard's side hold ahead of tonight's second leg, there are a number of burning issues that the Rangers manager must address if his team are to progress to the last 16.

One of the reasons that Braga were so dominant during the first half at Ibrox last week was due to the Portuguese outfit's ability to play out from the back. It is no secret that Rubin Amorim has a great number of technical players that he can call on and this was made all the more stark in Govan by Rangers' incessant harrying of the visitors' defence.


It is easy to see why the Rangers forwards were sucked in to pressing their counterparts so aggressively. After Braga gained the upper hand with a sensational long-range drive from Fransergio, the hosts were clearly desperate to drag themselves back into the contest. And with a 50,000-strong home crowd cheering them on, the players at the top of Gerrard's side were met with roars of approval for putting pressure on the Braga defenders as they repeatedly attempted to play out from the back. Again, this is perfectly understandable: fans want to see their team actively chasing a match when their side is behind. Discipline can be easily mistaken for lethargy.

The problem, however, was that this played precisely into Braga's hands. Their defenders were calm and composed on the ball, and were able to work it around the onrushing Rangers forwards with little hassle. Once the first three or four players were beaten this way, this left Gerrard's side at a huge disadvantage for the remainder of the phase of play. Acres of space opened up for the visitors as Braga surged forward and the numerical advantage was gained.

This was the primary reason for the poor first-half showing from Rangers last Thursday but, to Gerrard's credit, it was an issue that was addressed at the interval. In the second period, the Rangers forwards did not press quite so aggressively and as such, Braga created fewer clear-cut chances. It is a stategy that Rangers must replicate this evening if they are to make it beyond the round of 32.

Naturally, having a lead to take to Portugal also helps in this regard; the Ibrox side will not have to chase the game and can therefore afford to sit off their opponents. Gerrard's side go into the tie with the advantage and it is Braga who must seize the intiative.

At the other end of the park, it is crucial that Rangers play with a high block in order to nullify tonight's hosts. As they proved at Ibrox, the Portuguese side have a number of players capable of shooting from distance; both goals came from outside the box, and another attempt crashed off the bar.


By actively closing down Braga's players, Rangers would be able to cut off this threat from distance before it even materialises. Of course, such a strategy would leave Gerrard's side vulnerable to balls in behind the defence but as the first leg demonstrated, Braga prefer to play their way through the opposition. By allowing the Braga defenders time on the ball at one end and creating a compact, cohesive defensive unit at the other, Rangers would force Amorim to alter his side's approach and thus gain the tactical advantage. 

In attack, Rangers proved at Ibrox that they have the ability and incision to cause Braga problems and a goal would go a long way in eliminating Braga. The loss of Alfredo Morelos through suspension is undoubtedly a blow in this regard but Florian Kamberi's second-half cameo against St Johnstone at the weekend would suggest that the Swiss-born striker is capable of filling the void left by the Colombian.

The on-loan Hibernian forward came off the bench at half-time at McDiarmid Park and turned the game in Rangers' favour before a late Stevie May goal salvaged a point for the Saints. Kamberi scored one and assisted the other as Rangers came from behind to lead in Perth.

Another big performance is required from Kamberi in Portugal tonight if he is given the nod up front and the striker must look to play off the shoulder of the last defender. Braga's high line was their biggest vulnerability at Ibrox - Morelos had a few great chances after bursting clear of the defence - and if Rangers' midfielders can pick out the 24-year-old breaking forward, then Kamberi can grab a crucial goal or two that would go a long way to securing Rangers' passage into the next round.