Europa League preview: Can Celtic and Rangers remain unbeaten?

Rangers and Celtic return to Europa League action on Thursday night looking to build on two impressive results in their opening group games. Adam Mackintosh previews. 

 

Young Boys vs Rangers

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has challenged his side to build on their opening Europa League victory against Feyenoord when they travel to Switzerland to take on Young Boys. They sit second in Group G behind Porto, who beat the Swiss champions 2-1 two weeks ago. Sheyi Ojo scored the only goal against Feyenoord Rangers have won their last three matches since that win, scoring ten goals and conceding none.

(Credit: Heather Miller)

Young Boys dropped into the Europa League after losing their Champions League play-off against Red Star Belgrade, going out on away goals after two draws. They are currently unbeaten in the Swiss league, sitting second on 19 points, three points behind leaders Basel. Cameroon international Jean-Pierre Nsame is their top scorer with nine goals, including one in their 3-2 win over Sion on Saturday.

For Rangers to improve on their performance of last season, where they finished third in their Europa League group, they must improve on their away form which saw them pick up just one point on the road. A trip to Bern is no easy feat with Young Boys taking points off Valencia and Juventus in the Champions League last season, beating the Italian champions 2-1 in December.

Ryan Kent, Jordan Jones and Joe Aribo remain out for the Ibrox side.

Celtic vs Cluj

Neil Lennon has said his side should use their defeat against Cluj in Champions League qualifying to power them to victory on Thursday night. Both sides started well in their European group with Celtic drawing 1-1 at French side Rennes two weeks ago, while Cluj defeated Italian giants Lazio 2-1.

Celtic come into the game after dropping their first points of the league season after drawing 1-1 with Hibernian on Saturday, with Ryan Christie equalising after a Kris Ajer own goal gave Hibs an early lead. Before Saturday, Celtic had won six successive domestic games since their humbling against Cluj.

Celtic were left frustrated at Easter Road on Sunday (Credit: Jamie Braidwood)

After drawing 1-1 in Transylvania, Celtic went into the second leg of the qualifier in control of the tie. In an eventful game where Celtic took the lead twice, Cluj scored two goals in the last ten minutes to take them through 5-4 on aggregate. The Romanians would go on to lose 2-0 on aggregate to the Czech champions Slavia Prague in the final round of Champions League qualifying.

One of the danger men for Cluj will be Frenchman Billel Omrani, who scored twice at Parkhead and scored the winner against Lazio in the first group game. He has 10 goals in 17 appearances so far this season.

Despite the result earlier on in the season, Celtic will go into this game as favourites as they look far more defensively settled than they did two months ago. Since the 4-3 defeat to Cluj in August, Celtic have conceded six goals in 10 games.

Mikey Johnston and Tom Rogic are doubts for the match, with Leigh Griffiths joining long-term absentees Jozo Simunovic and Daniel Arzani on the sidelines. Nir Bitton is back in contention for the first time since September 1.

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