Earlier on Ibrox Noise detailed a who’s who of the UEL third round, sides Rangers could face should we dispatch Croatians Osijek, and the general theme appeared to be ‘wait till we get there first’.
And having a proper look at our second round opponents, Steven Gerrard and Rangers have their work cut out to do that, and Osijek are not a side to be taken lightly.
Obviously, as we know, for a nation of 4M people Croatian football is in an excellent place right now – world cup finalists and justifiably so, the Baltic nation has seen its football grow since the country’s inception, and these days teams like Hadjuk Split, Croatia Zagreb and Rijeka are household names.
Osijek perhaps didn’t have the same gravity, but an excellent fourth placed finish last season in a growing and strengthening league is nothing to sniff at, getting there ahead of Nikola Katic’s old side Slaven Balupo and Lokomotiva.
However, it was their exploits last season in the UEL qualifiers which made everyone take notice, especially their outstanding clean sheet and double win over Dutch giants PSV.
Bear in mind this is a PSV filled with players valued in the multimillions – goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet is valued at 10M, Isimit Mirin at the back is 4M, Arias 18M, Pereiro 10M and Lozano 30M – 70M in just five players, and over a 100M in the rest.
That’s just a few, and Osijek overcame them superbly – only to go out on away goals in the next round v Austrian giants Vienna.
In short, Rangers have a tall order to break through this side – Shkupi they are not, and a Rangers who are not quite the final product will do outstandingly to actually make the third round.
It will make for fascinating viewing.