Rangers vs Shkupi
It's obvious now that Rangers is back between top clubs of Scottish football, but it remains to be seen whether signings they make this Summer will be enough to challenge for the title against their fierce rivals from Celtic. Even though they ended the season on third position with "only" twelve points less than Celtic, the truth is that there still was some quality gap between the top sides.
They were defeated four times out of five matches (one draw), having overall goal difference 2:14 in favor of their opponents. Anyway, no doubt that stepping into the European scene is one of their goals this season, as their fans can't be satisfied with good performances in the domestic league only. They are a side with rich history in European competitions, but failed to improve last season when they shockingly exited in first qualifying round to Progres Niederkorn from Luxembourg.
Early in May, former Liverpoor and England captain Steven Gerard was appointed as their new manager. Scottish side has signed central defenders Connor Goldson from Brighton and Nikola Katic, as well as winger Jamie Murphy from Brighton, all on seven numbers deal (of euros). Few others have came, such as right back Jon Flanagan from Liverpool or midfielder Scott Arfield from Burnley.
They had one notable friendly game so far, winning over English side BUry 6:0 five days ago. Goal scorers were Murphy, Katic, Morelos, Rudden and Arfield twice. With the way the side moved the ball, it could be said that a positive season is ahead of them if they continue in same manner.
Shkupi had one of the best seasons last year, when the team finished fourth in First League of FYROM. They didn't have remarkable record with thirteen victories, twelve draws and eleven defeats, but it was enough to finish at fourh position. One point more than fifth placed Sileks and only five less in comparison to second placed Vardar. On the other side, they had fourty points less than league leaders from Shkendija.
The season was ended on a four matches winning strike and they got the last call for the European exit. They mostly have domestic players in the club, but also some younger prospects from African countries, winger Muarem Muarem who had some experience in Khazakhstan and Azerbaijan and have played seven times for their national team.
Neither of their players had quality career so far, either failing in better leagues or playing mostly in neighboring Albania.
- Shkupi comes out on European scene for the first time in their history.
I got no doubt that Rangers will want to reach the group stage of Europa League if possible and surely that everyone is determined to make an impact in this one. After their "worst result in history" and elimination last season in the first round, they should be extra motivated to get a convincing victory here. Stadium won't be full, but should be enough for the players to feel extra motivated for this one.
Rangers vs Shkupi prediction
Rangers -3 Asian handicap @ 2.12 with Pinnacle