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Rangers couldn’t possibly enter this clash in better form and with a whole series of positive results on the continent under Steven Gerrard since his appointment, they’ll be keen to test their progress here.
Both they and Benfica have won their opening games versus Lech Poznan and Standard Liege, though the Portuguese outfit start as odds-on favourites to win on home turf.
Benfica failed to take an opportunity to return to the summit of their domestic league on Monday, with their seven-game winning streak coming to an end as Boavista ran out impressive 3-0 winners.
€20m player Pedrinho missed out after fracturing his foot against Standard Liege last week, while Jorge Jesus has one or two other problems with Benfica also expected to be without full-backs Andre Almeida and Alex Grimaldo, as well as on loan Barca defender Jean-Clair Todibo.
Still, Benfica have the chance to make amends for their performance last time out with a record to break here, as they aim to become the first side in UEFA Cup or Europa League history to go 24 games unbeaten at home, having equalled Zenit St. Petersburg’s record on matchday day two versus Standard Liege.
However, they’ll have to make do without any home backing, with the Portuguese government telling them fans won’t be allowed in the stadium, despite having nearly 5,000 when hosting the Belgian outfit last week.
Rangers And Benfica To Draw
Rangers will certainly provide stiff competition and they’re now W16-D2-L0 since the season began in August.
They’ve also kept clean sheets in a massive 14 of these, including each of the past six, as the only side to get the better of them were Leverkusen in this competition in a delayed second leg to their Last 16 clash.
We wouldn’t however want to back the away clean sheet given Benfica’s record here, while it’s worth considering that up against the strongest opposition Rangers have faced over this period (Leverkusen, Galatasaray and Celtic), only their Old Firm rivals were prevented from scoring.
Although we wouldn’t bank on shutout for the Glaswegian club, we would expect them to prove competitive and they’re W7-D8-L4 on the road in Europe under Gerrard.
That includes a number of qualifying matches, but in the group stages alone they’re just W1-D3-L3, though each defeat came by one-goal margins and they did pick up stalemates at Villarreal in 2018/19 and then Feyenoord and Porto last term.
Both sides would settle for a point here and we can see this being a fairly cagey match, and that’s typically the way with Rangers as eight of their last 10 groups stage matches have seen fewer than three goals.