By Nick Ware

23rd Nov, 2021 | 2:10pm

Rangers predicted XI v Sparta Prague in Gio van Bronckhorst's first game as Ibrox boss

Giovanni van Bronckhorst will name his first starting XI as Rangers manager on Thursday when the Light Blues host Sparta Prague at Ibrox.

The clash comes just four days after the Gers’ embarrassing League Cup semi-final exit to Hibernian on Sunday when Martin Boyle’s first-half hat-trick helped to condemn them to a 3-1 defeat in Glasgow.

They must regroup quickly, though, as Thursday falls under the ‘must not lose’ category and, really, one they have to win.

Rangers are currently level on points with second-placed Sparta on four points, though the Czech side are above due to September’s 1-0 win in Prague.

Van Bronckhorst has a selection headache after what he witnessed at Hampden Park on Sunday.

He could quite easily change goalkeeper, but Allan McGregor should just get the nod and will hope to revert to last season’s form.

Rangers fans want to see Nathan Patterson at right-back, and they have every justification for that after his recent displays for Scotland.

However, will van Bronckhorst drop his captain in his first game in charge? It seems unlikely, and thus James Tavernier should get the chance to add to his two Europa League assists this season.

Leon Balogun and Connor Goldson can’t really claim to deserve to keep their starting spots, but with no other senior centre-backs fit, they may get lucky here.

Calvin Bassey is one potential option to slot in at the centre of defence, but his energy may be utilised from the left-back role in place of Borna Barisic against Slavia.

Van Bronckhorst has alluded to using a 4-2-3-1 formation, and it’s a system that could easily flow into a 4-3-3-, one regularly used by predecessor Steven Gerrard, though the Dutchman may elect to use more width in the attacks.

Rangers have options in central midfield but Steven Davis and Glen Kamara should keep their spots, though John Lundstram could easily start after sitting on the bench on the weekend.

Joe Aribo was rather bizarrely taken off in the 69th minute at Hampden but will start again.

There should be fresh faces out wide, however, with Fashion Sakala and Ianis Hagi coming in.

Sunday’s goalscorer Scott Arfield will drop to the bench with Hagi and Aribo flitting between positions out wide and in the middle.

Then it’s the big one up front – does Alfredo Morelos keep his place after his Hibs showing?

Kemar Roofe was not on the bench and may be used from the bench against Sparta, rather than starting.

Three changes probably aren’t what Bears want to see, but van Bronckhorst may be prepared to give the majority of players a chance to prove themselves in front of him, and the five-substitute rule in the Europa League allows him the chance to make significant changes.

In other Rangers news, the club agreed a deal to sign this 26-year-old on January 2.