With a comfortable 2-0 Europa League first round qualifying win over Shkupi in the bag, we take a look at what Rangers should expect from NK Osijek – their opponent in the second round.

The Croatian side overcame Petrocub of Moldova in the previous round, but it was anything but comfortable as they claimed a 3-2 aggregate win. It leaves Rangers with a first-leg clash against Osijek in Croatia this Thursday, but what do Rangers have to be wary of and where can they hurt their opponents?

Osijek are currently managed by little-known Zoran Zekic. The 44-year-old played for an incredible sixteen clubs during his playing days, and the biggest club he’s managed is Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova.

More pertinent to Rangers, however, will be Osijek’s attacking style of play. The Croatians are a threat down either flank, and often look to Peter Bokaj and Gabriel Boban for inspiration. This leaves James Tavernier and Declan John with big individual roles on Thursday night to try and keep Osijek quiet on their home turf.

(Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Where Steven Gerrard’s men can get real joy on Thursday night is on the counter. With Osijek a fan of the high press and a high defensive line, they often leave big gaps at the back to be exploited. This will be Murphy, Windass, and Arfield’s responsibility in particular to make the most of.

Osijek are full of young Croatian prospects, many of whom are highly inexperienced at this level. Marko Maric does have two full Croatia caps to his name, however, and the over 6ft striker cannot be ignored when Rangers hit Croatian soil.

( STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Whilst they are limited in ability, they did take an impressive European scalp last season when they knocked PSV Eindhoven out of the same competition. They then came close to doing the same to Austria Vienna, but were knocked out on away goals.

There is plenty to be wary of for Gerrard’s side when they visit Croatia on Thursday, but it’s clear that there’s also plenty of opportunity for the pacey Ibrox attackers to profit on.

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