Glasgow Rangers find themselves in the Champions League group stages for the first since the 2010/11 season and following their incredible achievement of reaching the Europa League final last year, it marks a natural progression to joining Europe’s elite.
The delirium of making it to the promised land was soon disrupted following the Ibrox side’s woeful 4-0 defeat to Old Firm rivals Celtic in Saturday’s clash at Parkhead.
It proves that their rivals are leaps ahead of them domestically and despite the success Giovanni van Bronckhorst has brought to Rangers on the continent, the Premiership is always the main objective.
Goalkeepers – Allan McGregor, Robby McCrorie, Jon McLaughlin
Defenders – James Tavernier, Ridvan Yilmaz, Connor Goldson, JohnSouttar, Ben Davies, Borna Barisic
Midfield/attack – John Lundstram, RyanJack, Steven Davis, Ryan Kent, Glen Kamara, James Sands, Fashion Sakala, Scott Arfield, Antonio Colak, Tom Lawrence, Rabbi Matondo, Alfredo Morelos, Scott Wright, Malik Tillman.
The squad also includes youngsters Leon King, Alex Lowry, and Adam Devine, but they don’t need to be included as they are on the B list of players and have come through the academy.
It’s evidently a solid squad, ready to take on the might of Europe, but there are a couple of notable absentees, with Ianis Hagi, Filip Helander, and Kemar Roofe all left out. That represents a significant blow to the club’s hopes of advancing out of the group stages.
Hagi was always going to be a major doubt despite his progress from injury and it looks as though the Ibrox faithful won’t see him until after the World Cup. With that in mind, it’s likely the other absentees that will prove a source of huge frustration to the manager.
Helander has been injured since April and suffered a setback in July and although Van Bronckhorst has said he will be a longer absentee, it’s unclear when he could be fit. When the Swede is in full health, he is arguably Rangers’ finest defender alongside Connor Goldson so this is a rather seismic blow to the Ibrox side.
Indeed, during his last campaign that was relatively full of fitness – 2020/21 – he played 31 times and earned the second-best average match rating compared to centre-backs in the team with 7.10, which was also the eighth best in the entire squad.
To rubberstamp his importance, a whopping tally of 4.4 aerial duels won per match was a tally that topped the tree and against the might of the sides they’ll face in Europe, having a fully functioning and fit defence will be of utmost importance.
The most significant call was that of Roofe, however, whose injury problems have blighted his spell in Glasgow. It’s almost been a stop-start in terms of progress with the Jamaica international but when he is fit, the player possesses a significant threat in the final third.
He scored 16 goals last season, despite playing only 36 times and two of those strikes came in the Europa League run, showing he knows how to score goals in big continental ties.
It was his strike that gave the side an extra-time victory over Braga in the quarter-finals and his importance should not be underestimated on the big stage, particularly when you consider Alfredo Morelos’ disciplinary issues over the summer.
With the Dutchman now submitting his squad, let’s hope the above setbacks don’t come back to haunt them.