Half time: Rangers 0-0 Spartak Moscow
Not a classic, but the hosts have looked the more likely against very ordinary opposition. Can they get the breakthrough goal? Find out in a few minutes…
45 mins: Tavernier’s free kick flashes across goal, a Spartak defender getting a slight touch to send it behind. The corner is delayed as Melgarejo and Morelos exchange words, before Tavernier’s corner is cleared. Morelos goes in the book, and that’s half time!
44 mins: Rangers keep pushing, Morelos sweeping a cross towards Candeias. It’s cleared but Candeias scurries after it and wins the ball back – and is promptly hacked down by Fernando, who is booked this time…
43 mins: Ryan Kent has a shot at goal, which dips in front of Maksimovic – but the young keeper holds on.
42 mins: Ejaria gives the ball away but picks up the rebound and steers a lovely cross towards Candeias. It’s deflected behind and the corner is headed back across goal by Joe Worrall. Maksimovic comes to clear but flaps at it, just about nudging it out of danger.
40 mins: Tavernier’s cross from the right is headed clear by Dzhikiya. Rangers enjoying 60% possession in this half, but clear-cut chances have been thin on the ground.
38 mins: Another hefty challenge from Spartak, with Fernando going through Ejaria in midfield. He’s lucky not to be booked, and from the free kick, Ejaria tries to wriggle to the byline – but the ball bobbles behind.
37 mins: Moments before, Candeias was upended in midfield by Melgarejo and is still complaining to the referee, his socks rolled down. Plenty of needle out there…
36 mins: Fernando’s set pieces look the most likely (only) way Spartak will break though, but another dangerous corner is flicked away from danger.
Villarreal have banged in two quick goals to lead Rapid Vienna 2-0. As it stands, they’re level with Rangers on five points.
33 mins: Candeias and Morelos get in a muddle as they try to link up on the break. The intensity is still high, the quality less so…
32 mins: The stop-start stuff continues, with Jack putting his arm across Lomovitsky as the winger looked to get forward. Free kick, but a booking for Spartak captain Dzhikiya for haranguing the referee.
30 mins: Spartak win a cheap free kick 30-odd yards out, which Worrall thunks clear under pressure. Morelos looks to break and is bundled over unceremoniously by Lomovitsky.
28 mins: Rangers pass it out from the back, before Candeias’ charge down the right is stalled by a Spartak handball. The free kick is eventually worked back to the winger, whose cross is cut out.
Over at Stamford Bridge, everything’s coming up Ruben Loftus-Cheek! The midfielder has scored twice in the first eight minutes, and Chelsea are flying:
26 mins: This is a Spartak team shorn of a fair few first-teamers, and to be honest, it has shown so far. Candeias puts in a terrific low cross that just evades Coulibaly, before Maksimenko parries behind.
24 mins: The lively Ryan Kent wins a corner, which Tavernier dispatches meekly to the first man.
23 mins: Spartak edge upfield but Rangers strike on the break, Kent linking up with Morelos, who plays Candeias in. Advancing into the box, he tries to lift a cross to Coulibaly instead of shooting, and fluffs his lines. That was a chance!
21 mins: Morelos is making friends with the Spartak defence, this time clipping the heels of Dzhikiya, who goes down in a heap.
19 mins: The best chance for the hosts so far, as James Tavernier’s curled free kick almost drops for Coulibaly in the box, before Spartak scramble it away.
17 mins: Spartak win a free kick, from which Fernando looks for Bocchetti with a lofted ball into the box that drifts behind goal.
15 mins: Spartak centre-back Bocchetti tries to get a rise out of Alfredo Morelos, chucking the ball at him after the striker concedes a free-kick. Morelos just wanders off, unimpressed.
13 mins: Tavernier steps beyond his marker and looks for Candeias upfield, but his through ball is overhit.
Elsewhere, it’s goalless in Group G’s other game between Villarreal and Rapid Vienna, while Lazio lead Marseille. One earlier result of note: Milan 1-2 Real Betis.
11 mins: Rangers appeal for a free kick as Ajaria is bundled over on the edge of the penalty area, but the referee isn’t interested.
9 mins: One of Spartak’s many nicknames is Myaso, which translates as ‘meat’. Simple but effective.
8 mins: Fernando, who started that Spartak break, takes an inswinging corner that skims off Flanagan’s head with Ze Luis closing in.
7 mins: Spartak very much out of their stride in the early stages, but they do win a corner as Goldson closes down a Zobnin cross.
5 mins: Rangers are being roared on every time they step into the Spartak half. Ryan Kent does much better than that here, weaving his way to the byline before cutting onto his right foot. His cross is headed away.
3 mins: Lomovitsky concedes a free kick on the halfway line. Rangers looking the more positive side early on here.
1 min: Tavernier wins the ball and slots it forward to Morelos, who forces a corner. Morelos gets up to meet the corner, but can only glance it across goal.
A very brief word with Stevie, who finds time to reveal Ryan Jack’s nickname. “Jacko was very consistent for us before he was injured, it’s good to have him back. Missing Scott Arfield [who is out through injury] is a blow.”
Arsenal have indeed held on in Lisbon, while in Leipzig, Celtic have lost 2-0. That leaves them with three points in a group that’s locked up by the Red Bull Two, with Salzburg top of the pile. So, an added incentive for Rangers as they look to go further in Europe than their rivals.
Elsewhere in Europa Land, Arsenal are moments away from making it 11 wins on the spin, after Danny Welbeck broke the deadlock in Lisbon:
Chelsea are taking on crack Belorussian outfit Bate Borisov at Stamford Bridge shortly. You can join Simon Burnton for that one:
So, Gerrard makes three changes from the team that earned a first away league win of the season at Hamilton. Midfielder Ryan Jack returns from injury, while Jon Flanagan and Joe Worrall come into defence. Andy Halliday, Nikola Katic and Jordan Rossiter all make way. In goal, Allan McGregor makes his 55th European appearance, moving ahead of Ally McCoist in the all-time list. He’s still some way off Barry Ferguson’s record of 82.
Rangers: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Worrall, Flanagan; Jack, Ejaria, Coulibaly; Kent, Candeias, Morelos.
Subs: Foderingham, Katic, Halliday, McCrorie, Grezda, Middleton, Lafferty.
Spartak: Maksimenko; Rasskazov, Bocchetti, Dzhikiya, Melgarejo; Fernando, Ignatov, Zobnin; Lomovitski, Tasahaev, Ze Luis.
Subs: Rebrov, Petkovic, Kutepov, Eremenko, Timofeev, Popov, Hanni.
Is any team loving their Thursday nights like Rangers? While league progress under Steven Gerrard has been stop-start, the team are flying in Europe. Ten games played, none lost, and top of Group G after a draw at Villarreal and a home win over Rapid Vienna that saw the big European night vibes return to Ibrox.
Next up in a group that positively reeks of mid-aughts Gazprom are Spartak Moscow, who have arrived in Glasgow in a state of disarray. After crashing out of the Champions League qualifiers, Spartak have one point from two games in the Europa League, and sit seventh in the Russian top flight.
That poor run of form saw their title-winning coach, Massimo Carrera, dismissed earlier this week, with assistant Raul Riancho in caretaker charge tonight. That leaves Rangers as favourites to win tonight, and take a giant step towards the knockout rounds. Kick-off is at 8pm, BST.