Rangers have been given an injury boost ahead of this evening’s Europa League last 32 clash against Braga with Borna Barisic declared fit to feature.
The Scottish Sun reported quotes from manager Steven Gerrard saying that the Croatian left-back is available for the game in Portugal after training with the team yesterday, having been forced off following a robust challenge in last week’s first leg at Ibrox. That injury, along with a subsequent blow to the kidney area, caused him to miss Sunday’s 2-2 draw against St Johnstone.
Barisic has been a key presence in Rangers’ line-up this season, making 34 starts in the current campaign and providing 14 assists, the joint-most in the squad along with fellow full-back James Tavernier. He had been ever-present in their Europa League campaign before going off injured in last week’s match against Braga.
The 27-year-old’s attacking influence was somewhat curbed that night as he found a team-mate with only one of his five crosses and did not register any key passes, with The Scotsman writer Joel Sked saying that he “found himself pinned back for much of the game”. However, he still showed his value as a defender by winning two tackles and making two interceptions during his team’s 3-2 victory.
In his injury-enforced absence, Andy Halliday was selected to start at left-back against St Johnstone on Sunday but he endured a difficult afternoon in Perth. Having “struggled to create anything meaningful going forward” as well as being “defensively vulnerable”, according to The 4th Official‘s Abhinab Ghosh, he was substituted at half-time.
Barisic’s return to fitness is a timely one for Rangers given how Halliday struggled against a team sitting eighth in the Premiership, raising the question as to how he would fare against the third-placed team in Portugal’s top flight, which is ranked eight places higher in UEFA’s association club coefficient.
Even if the Croatian wasn’t at his attacking best against Braga last week, he still made some vital defensive contributions and that may well be needed once more against a team who scored eight goals in their three home games in the group stage. Indeed, with the Portuguese side only needing to score once to turn the tie in their favour, there is a strong possibility that Rangers will need at least one goal this evening, and Barisic’s creativity could be crucial to that mission.
Rangers fans, how big a boost is it to have Barisic back available for this evening’s second leg? Have your say by commenting below!
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