Steven Gerrard’s Rangers have been fired a warning ahead of their Europa League group stage opener against Villarreal by former Arsenal defender Paul Merson.
The Scottish giants marched through qualifying to seal regular European action at Ibrox this season but face a difficult challenge in their trip to face Villarreal on Thursday evening.
Rangers will come up against a rejuvenated Santi Cazorla in their trip to face the La Liga side, who has battled back from a lengthy injury problem to establish himself as a key player for the Yellow Submarines since leaving Arsenal in the summer.
Ex-Arsenal man Merson believes Cazorla is the biggest threat to Rangers’ hopes in Thursday’s clash and issued a warning to Gerrard’s side.
“I’d put him up there with some of the best who ever played with Arsenal,” Merson told The Daily Express.
“I’m sure fans will like seeing him but I’m not so sure Stevie and the Rangers boys will.
“Cazorla hasn’t kicked a ball for three years. He’s very fortunate that he’s playing football at all but it’s great to see that he’s back playing in Spain.
“Passing, vision, he had it all. In tight spaces, he got Arsenal out of trouble and playing again. It’s like a snooker player, always thinking three shots ahead. Cazorla was always well ahead of the game.
“He was out for seasons and it’s a miracle he’s playing now. He’ll be easing his way back in. But it shows you how much they value him that they were willing to bring him back and put him right into the set-up.”
Cazorla has featured in three La Liga games for Villarreal so far this season in what has been a difficult start for the club, who ended a run of three matches without a win against Leganes at the weekend.