|Europa League, quarter-final first leg: Sporting Braga v Rangers|
|Venue: Estadio Municipal, Braga Date: Thursday, 7 April Kick-off: 20:00 BST|
|Coverage: Listen to commentary on BBC Radio Scotland & online; follow live text on the BBC Sport website and app.|
Rangers can cope without injured talisman Alfredo Morelos, says manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst before the Europa League quarter-final.
Thursday’s first leg away to Sporting Braga follows a 2-1 home defeat by Celtic that leaves Rangers six points adrift in the domestic title race.
Top-scorer Morelos missed that game and will sit out the rest of the season.
“I believe so,” Van Bronckhorst replied when asked if Rangers could compensate for the loss of the Colombia striker.
Morelos, who has scored 18 times this term, has had an operation on a thigh injury sustained on international duty at the end of last month.
- Morelos ruled out for rest of season
- How Carvalhal’s Braga fairtyale came true
“Of course, it is a big blow to us because he is our striker and we now don’t have him any more this season,” Van Bronckhorst said.
“So, yeah, we are disappointed, but we have to move on. That’s the only thing we have to do now.”
Braga sit a distant fourth behind leaders Porto in the Primeira Liga but head into the Europa League tie on the back of a fine 3-2 home win over third-top Benfica on Thursday.
Rangers have reserved their best form this season for European competition and Van Bronckhorst believes they will need another “complete performance” if they are to grasp “a big opportunity to reach the semi-finals”.
“We have managed to do this in Europe so far,” the Dutchman said.
“We have to do it again to win against a strong opponent. I think people were saying it was the best draw we could have a couple of weeks ago.
“But we have watched a lot of Braga matches and they are a very strong team with a lot of team spirit and very quick in transition moments.
“They have shown very good performances to reach this stage and we will need to be at our best.”
In addition to losing Morelos for the rest of the season, Rangers remain without Romania playmaker Ianis Hagi, who also underwent surgery earlier this season.
Fellow midfielder Alex Lowry is also not available for the Europa League tie.
Braga are without 16-year-old winger Roger Fernandes through injury as well as long-term casualty, defender Sequeira.
What do we know about Braga?
Former Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea City boss Carlos Carvalhal took over as Braga head coach in July 2020 after a spell in charge of Primeira Liga rivals Rio Ave.
Under their 56-year-old former centre-half, Braga, who came closest to winning the domestic title when they were runners-up in 2010, are on course to finish fourth for a second successive season.
Their best performance in Europe came in 2011, when they lost to Porto in the Europa League final. But they knocked out Monaco 3-1 on aggregate last month to reach their first quarter-final since losing to Shakhtar Donetsk in 2016.
That came after finishing second in their qualifying group behind Red Star Belgrade, who Rangers defeated to reach this stage, and ahead of Midtjylland, who knocked Celtic out of Champions League qualifying.
Captained by winger Ricardo Horta, the second top-scorer in the Primeira Liga this season with 15 goals, it is a squad with no household names but full of youthful promise, including 19-year-old Brazilian right-back Yan Couto, who is on loan from Manchester City.
What they said
Rangers defender Calvin Bassey: “There is a bit of confidence taken from the games we have had previously against Dortmund and Red Star and what we have had to overcome.
“The character shown from us has been amazing and we will show that same drive and same passion and hopefully get a result in Portugal.”
Pick your Rangers XI
Choose your starting XI. It’s up to you how to approach it – you could go for the team you WANT the manager to pick or the one you THINK he will.
- Braga and Rangers’ only previous meetings in Europe came at the last 32 stage of the Europa League in 2019-20, with Rangers winning home and away. At the time, they were only the second side to beat Braga home and away in the knockout rounds of the Europa League (also Shakhtar Donetsk in 2015-16).
- Rangers have reached the quarter-final stage or later of a major European competition for the first time since 2007-08, when they finished as runners-up in the Uefa Cup, losing to Zenit in the final. Overall, Rangers have progressed from 6/11 quarter-finals in Europe.
- Braga have been defeated only twice across their past 18 home matches in Europe, winning 11, although the first of their two losses came against Rangers in February 2020, with Ryan Kent scoring the game’s only goal.
- Rangers have conceded at least one goal in each of their past seven away games in major European competition, their longest such run since a 13-game stretch between 1993 and 1999.
- Rangers forward Alfredo Morelos has been directly involved in 21 goals in 33 Europa League games (15 goals, 6 assists). Since his competition debut for Rangers in October 2018, only Bruno Fernandes (25) has been involved in more goals.