Benfica star Angel Di Maria drops Rangers ‘fear’ hint

Benfica star Angel Di Maria drops Rangers ‘fear’ hint
Benfica's Argentinian forward #11 Angel Di Maria looks on from the sideline during the Portuguese league football match between SL Benfica and FC Vizela at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on February 18, 2024. (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM / AFP) (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM/AFP via Getty Images)

Benfica and Argentina superstar Angel Di Maria has admitted he fears Rangers after revealing he really didn’t want the Ibrox side in the last 16.

Speaking before Rangers travel to Lison to take on the Portuguese powerhouse, the world cup winner was lavish in his praise of Fabio Silva, Jack Butland and James Tavernier, but it was what he said about the Govan side in general which spoke volumes for a change in European perception.

He said:

“Rangers wasn’t the best opponent for us in this draw but at this stage, every rival is complicated. We have the first match at home so we’ll need maximum concentration to get a good result. It will be decided in Glasgow but we have to go there with an advantage. I don’t predict many goals in this tie. We have watched Rangers and they have an excellent squad.”

In simple terms, while we know he’s also being canny and buttering up an opponent as so many teams do, there’s also a change in context.

Remember the arrogance of Lothar Matteus in deriding Rangers in 2022 when we put two of his country’s sides out of the Europa League in Dortmund and Leipzig?

The German legend had absolutely slaughtered us, and showed no respect whatsoever, albeit he is known for his arrogance, true.

But this angle is very different.

Rangers have absolutely earned credibility on the European stage – sure, our UCL campaign was an complete disaster, but on the level of the Europa League, clubs in Europe utterly show awareness of Rangers (Sevilla and the repeated last 16s) and the extensive damage we do to so-called big clubs.

Ask Betis.

Of course, as we said, he’s also flattering us, which is always wise to do, but there’s a level of honesty in there as well – and Benfica will nowhere near take us for mugs.

Last time they did that they ended up with two draws, and luckily at that.

We’ll find out on Thursday who has advantage coming into Ibrox.

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