It was the 3rd of August in the year 2011 that Rangers last played in the Champions league.
It was the third qualifying round, and our opponent that day was Malmo FF.
We drew 1-1 that fateful day, in a very controversial match that saw two from our team sent off, and one from Malmo, but despite scoring first we could not hold on to the lead, and Malmo went through to the next round, 2 goals to 1 on aggregate thanks to Jelavic’s heartbreaking miss in the same ground we’re going to tomorrow.
Rangers ended up playing Peterhead in the most high-profile match the Scottish third division has ever seen.
So, it just seems like it is fate that our opponents tomorrow, on the 3rd of August, exactly 10 years later, are Malmo FF.
And the game is again at the third qualifying round.
On that day, 10 long years ago, Alan Macgregor, was in goals and Steven Davis was in midfield; and perhaps they still both remember how we dominated the game, for most of the match, despite Malmo having the numerical advantage.
In 2011 Malmo mainly played a counter-attacking style, because that was all they could do against a very strong Rangers team.
Today, they no longer rely so much on the counter-attack. Instead they try to play a fast high-pressing game, that is eerily similar to the system we faced earlier this year, by a team of [fill in the blank] from Czech.
And it is clear they are no mugs.
In 2020, with their more aggressive style of play Malmo topped group B of the Europa League, and they progressed to the last 32 where they lost to Wolfsburg 5-1 on aggregate.
On reviewing their most recent games, I have noticed that because Malmo prefer to play all-out attack for 90 minutes, they have to resort to just chopping down opponents every time it looks like the other team is about to break out.
So, some things have not changed in the last 10 years.
But if their opponents are faster, then have serious problems adapting, and they tend to lose by big scores.
Within their team perhaps their most important player is Antonio Colak, who Borna Barisic might know. He obtained his first cap for Croatia in November 2020, and he has already scored 3 goals in 4 appearances in the Champions league.
Their goal-keeper is Johan Dahlin, who was the first choice for the Swedish national team way back in 2009, but worryingly for Malmo, he has only had one clean sheet in his first 4 games.
After reviewing how Malmo play, if we bring our Real Madrid game, Rangers can easily win this game, and on our day we could perhaps win by 4 or even 5 goals.
Malmo’s midfielders can play silky smooth passes, but they sometimes leave such huge gaps that I think even Allan McGregor could waddle through them.
Actually, has anyone else noticed that Allan McGregor did not score any goals last year, nor did he have any assists? That is something Gerrard will have to work on…
But being honest, Malmo are very susceptible to quick changes in play across the field, and because they try to play man to man marking, they can be caught out by aggressive teams that can dribble past their markers.
On the other side, if we think all we have to do is turn up, and our opponents will sit back and look on in shocked awe at all the Rangers players, we will be in for another very tough night.
This Malmo team is super fit….think Czech.
And they will be nibbling at our players non-stop for 90 minutes, and we cannot expect them to tire towards the end of the match…again think Czech.
But despite these comparisons, they are not as good as that Czech team, and they are just not as compact.
The truth is the so-called easier games only look easy when everyone works hard.
Malmo have improved in some respects from the team we played 10 years ago, but so have Rangers.
Our tactics are better, and our technical skills are at least on par, if not better than the team we had ten years ago.
It’s been 10 long crazy years, but after all the pain, and all the humiliations, Rangers are finally back playing football with the big boys.
It’s time to show everyone that this time we are not here to just make up the numbers.
The good times are back, and it’s time for Ibrox to bounce once more.