With the Gers battling away to stay in the title race and desperately trying to keep pace with Celtic after a run of results which has seen them lose the initiative, it’s easy to forget that there is a European tie lurking around the corner, which is going to require all of Rangers’ attention. Braga, a team that is sitting third in Portugal’s Primeira Liga will make the trip to Ibrox on 20th February for the first leg of the Europa League round of 32 tie. Rangers will then travel to Portugal for the return leg on the 26th.
It’s fair to say that the Portuguese outfit are currently on a very good run of form having last lost on 18th December, and even then that was to table-toppers Benfica by only a solitary goal.
This run that Braga find themselves on is by no means down to luck and has more to do with a man that Barcelona splashed $34.3m on at the end of January. Francisco Trincao is his name and he is just 20-years-old. Sadly for Rangers, part of the deal that took Trincao to the Nou Camp involves the Catalans only taking up his services in the summer of 2020.
DONE DEAL: Barcelona have confirmed they have reached an agreement with SC Braga for the transfer of Francisco Trincao for a fee of €31m, signing a five-year contract.— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) January 31, 2020
He will join the club on July 1st. pic.twitter.com/wuUn1Mswmb
This means Trincao will indeed face Rangers in the upcoming Europa League fixtures and he could prove to be more than a handful if the $553m buy-out clause that Barcelona has slapped on their latest recruit is anything to go by. Highly rated Gers left-back Borna Barisic will be tasked with stopping the 20-year-old on the night and given that Barisic is in such good form, there’s every chance that he will be able to contain the man that they are calling ‘the next Ronaldo.’
The problem, however, is that Trincao likes to drift onto the other wing if he is not getting the joy he desires and will do that in a moment's notice should Barisic enjoy early success against him. The responsibility will then fall onto James Tavernier's shoulders.
Rangers are blessed to have two very good fullbacks at this moment in time but Trincao may decide to pull them infield, as he often dictates the game from in between the lines just behind the number nine. Now you can see what Rangers will be up against, a player that can play all along the front line and drift into those pockets that can often be a defender’s blindspot.
Discipline will be key for Rangers and they will have to keep ten men on the field, something that they couldn't do in their last Europa League outing at home to Young Boys in a 1-1 draw with Ryan Jack sent off, meaning he will miss the first leg of the Braga tie.
Steven Gerrard will be aware of the threat and also hatching a plan to minimise the effect that Trincao will have on the game. There’s no need for panic stations as Braga are still only at 3/1 in football betting markets to come away with a crucial away win in Glasgow but the warnings signs about Trincao are there.
📢 Borna Borna Borna Barisic— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) January 30, 2020
He comes and goes
He comes and goes pic.twitter.com/WD8XkTPYVg
This is the type of fixture that is all set up for Barcelona’s new star to shush a stunned Ibrox under the lights after a great goal.
Great players are given room to roam with their managers affording them the luxury of deciding where to be during an attack, you can expect Trincao to be given this role. It can be like trying to mark the invisible man as they slip and slide in and out of space whilst eyeing up the best way to the goal.
The passion of the Ibrox crowd will have the Rangers players stirred up on what should be a pulsating night in the Europa League. Something just says that Trincao will know he is in the game very early on, after a few full-blooded challenges. Whether he rides them or shies away, remains to be seen.