Weblog: The football punter

Rangers can grab a point from Villarreal clash

Europa League
BT Sport 3, 8pm Thursday

Villarreal snapped a four-game draw streak at the weekend with a welcome win but they can get back in the stalemate habit against Rangers at Ibrox.

The Spanish side looked the class act in the group going into the campaign and they have done little wrong in this competition so far.

But their inability to turn draws into wins means their qualification is far from assured and all four teams are still in the hunt.

The teams' 2-2 draw at La Ceramica in September was the first of three draws chalked up by Villarreal to go with their 5-0 drubbing of Rapid Vienna.

They are clear favourites in Glasgow despite having been on a five-match winless streak before Sunday’s 2-1 win against Betis, a result which eased the pressure on boss Javier Callejo.

They are fifth from bottom of La Liga with a trip to Barcelona next up and no matter how much they enjoy competing in the Europa League – and they are regulars – their domestic issues are a concern.

Away from home this season they have been decent enough with just two defeats in nine in all competitions. Five have been draws including their two Europa League road trips in Vienna and Moscow against Spartak.

Rangers, of course, are still licking their wounds after their 4-3 reverse at Spartak, a match in which they led three times. But had it not been for Alan McGregor between the sticks they could have shipped eight or nine.

However, Steven Gerrard’s side are continuing to improve and having held Villarreal away they should feel confident they can do the same at home.


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Match in Focus

12:30 TODAY BT2

Brighton v Derby

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Derby have lost only one of their last nine outings.
Expert verdict
Derby haven’t lost in over a month so should go into their fifth-round tie at Brighton with high hopes. Brighton were hammered by Burnley in their last outing and there could be a shock on the cards when the Rams, buoyed by last week’s dominant performance against Hull, head south.