Saturday, 11 August 2018

An incredible 270-minute target for Rangers

First and foremost, we are going to immediately pre-empt this article by highlighting we’re well aware there’s still potentially three matches of 90 minutes left before achieving the goal, and we’re aware equally it won’t be a stroll in the park.

However, we have to say when the European adventure began, most fans, ourselves included, would just have been happy with getting to round two – with slaying the demon of last season’s absolute atrocity in Luxembourg.

That we did lay a ghost to rest by way of beating a significantly better team than they (at the time, relatively speaking) in Shkupi is an added bonus, and to then follow that up by convincingly dispatching Croatian outfit Osijek (and taking their best player into the bargain) is a level of achievement very few expected.

That we have added to that a rather clinical 3-1 over Slovenian giants Maribor in the first leg of the third round, and, incredibly, we have to see ourselves as having a thoroughly realistic chance of making the group stage of the Europa League.

To negotiate one qualifier was good, to negotiate the second round was downright impressive, and to have done this well by half time in the third is truly above expectations.

Assuming we do finish the job in Slovenia, the play off round awaits – and either the comical irony of a clash against last season’s conquerers Niederkorn, or their Russian opponents UFA.

The first leg there was a close one, a 2-1 to the home side, so only a 1-0 to Niederkorn in the second leg is needed for an incredible repeat of last season – but we have to say the Rangers side the Luxembourg XI would face would be an astonishingly different prospect to the one they gubbed with such depressing ease.

In fact, we hope seriously we are not being complacent or arrogant here, but the performances, game management, team management and general goalscoring in the Europa League so far do point to it being extremely possible for this Rangers team to negotiate the next three matches in the competition and secure that group stage place.

There is no question this team is doing better than expected – a defence we can rely on, a midfield which is putting a shift in, and an attack which does seem to be scoring goals, it actually looks like it’s a team capable of holding its own in the UEL.

We are under no illusions about the gravity of what lies ahead. This squad isn’t finished, the XI is still not complete, and Gerrard has only been in management for barely over two months. Let’s keep ourselves grounded, ok?

But the current state of things is far beyond what we hoped for. The dropped two points at Pittodrie were an injustice, and beyond that affairs have clearly exceeded what we could have ever hoped for.

Does it match Celtic? No, let’s not be silly here. Celtic have a multimillion pound squad and they are by far the benchmark. But given what this team is currently demonstrating, we do feel it’s much closer to pushing them harder than any Rangers team has since we won 3-2 at Ibrox in 2012.

And the evidence of the Europa League competence is testament to that.

Comments System WIDGET PACK