It is the early throes of autumn, yet the stormy weather that’s engulfed Glasgow this week mirrors the mood around Rangers. A stodgy success over St Johnstone on Saturday provided little relief from the constant rain – and Michael Beale will hope a return to an old faithful, the Europa League, will ignite a more positive response.
Rangers FC Crave Another Europa League Run
Mixed Europa League Memories for Rangers FC
Rangers are back in the Europa League for the first time since their agonising penalty shootout defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the final 18 months ago. The Light Blues have performed with distinction in this competition, and Real Betis will provide stern opposition as they look to embark on another memorable European adventure.
It was under Steven Gerrard Rangers began to make significant inroads in Europe again. His endeavours brought respectability back to the club after a decade of turmoil. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst built upon his work and propelled the club to an unlikely European final. Reaching Seville was a remarkable achievement, but it has been downhill since.
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Victory over PSV to secure Champions League qualification last year was another significant step in their recovery. The Champions League proved to be a humiliating experience, with an injury-hit squad resembling a disorganised rabble against Ajax, Liverpool and Napoli. The hidings were demoralising, the performances lifeless, and PSV inflicted another thumping last month – to offer a reminder of how far standards have fallen.
Gloom Has Replaced Pre-season Enthusiasm at Rangers
The beginning of a Europa League campaign should contain plenty of hope. A growing injury list featuring Nicolas Raskin, Todd Cantwell, Danilo & Kieran Dowell is unlikely to aid Beale against La Liga opposition nor reduce the sense of uneasiness around Govan. The supporters appear unconvinced by the methods of Beale, with pre-season enthusiasm draining.
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Since late last year, Beale was keen to stress a brighter tomorrow was on the horizon. He discussed the present, but his mind was firmly on the future. The manager, like a well-polished politician, has a way with words. He is engaging and persuasive yet struggling to deliver on his rhetoric. The anger directed towards him is not only fuelled by poor results and a joyless style of play; it is also due to many feeling like they have been led up the garden path.
Beale Needs To Make A Dent in the Europa League
Only an upturn in results and marked performance improvement will appease the Ibrox faithful. Rangers have, since Gerrard arrived, impressed in the Europa League. Betis have superior resources, but upsetting the odds, especially at Ibrox, has become expected rather than hoped.
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Since 2018, Rangers have lost just one of 12 Europa League group games. Performing well in continental competition is a prerequisite for any manager at a big club. Beale should view tomorrow night as an opportunity to secure his first signature win as boss.
Beale Urgently Needs Big-Match Victories
Beale’s big-game record has been deplorable. A victory over Spanish opposition, whom Rangers have historically struggled against, will earn him much-needed breathing space. Sparta Prague and Aris Limassol complete the Group C line-up. Only progression to the knockout stages – will be viewed as a success and a vital reprieve for Beale, who according to reports is under pressure.