Former Scottish Premiership defender Alex Bruce believes that Steven Davis will be a key figure for Rangers in their Europa League clash against Braga this evening.
The ex-Kilmarnock man pointed to the Northern Ireland international’s experience, ball retention and level-headed composure as traits that he will need to provide for Steven Gerrard’s team as they take a 3-2 lead to Portugal for the second leg of a finely-poised tie.
Speaking to Football Insider about the 35-year-old ‘Gers midfielder, Bruce said: “The experienced players, going away from home in Europe, your Steve Davis for example. He keeps the ball, he’s got a level head, got experience both at Premier League level and international level so people like him will be vitally important to the team. He’ll have to act as a leader on the night.”
Bruce is right to single out Davis as being a potentially key figure for Rangers this evening for the very reasons provided. At 35, the midfielder is the third-oldest player in the squad, while he brings considerable European experience with 47 appearances in continental action, having also played in this tournament for Southampton three seasons ago.
Bruce correctly highlights Davis’ ability to retain possession, with his passing success rate of 84% among the highest in Gerrard’s squad. Also, with nobody else matching his average of 54 passes per game, his ability to keep the ball moving could be crucial against Braga. In last week’s first leg, he completed 40 of his 47 passes for an accuracy rate of 85.1%, the highest of anyone in the Light Blues’ starting line-up (as per WhoScored).
Bruce also alluded to the veteran midfielder’s “level head”, something that is evident in him collecting just one yellow card in 37 appearances in the midfield engine room this season. The ‘Gers had two players booked in the home leg against Braga and one of those was costly as Alfredo Morelos is missing tonight due to suspension, so Davis’ tendency to keep his composure could be an important attribute in the away leg where Braga’s home following may try to pressurise the referee into doling out punishment to Rangers players whenever the opportunity arises.
Davis came good for the ‘Gers in last week’s first leg, with The Scotsman‘s Joel Sked saying that he “raised his game” after the interval and “began to make more confident passes”. As Bruce has outlined, the Northern Ireland midfielder’s composure in terms of temperament and ball distribution this evening could be key to Rangers’ hopes of progression to the last 16.
Rangers fans, do you agree with Bruce’s belief that Davis will play a key role if the ‘Gers are to progress this evening? Share your views in the comments section below!
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