It may seem confusing to many, but Rangers’ best result of the season was a game they weren’t even playing.

As Steven Gerrard’s Gers prepare to face Maribor on Thursday night, another Scottish club were in action on Tuesday.

Celtic failed to overcome AEK Athens in Greece in their third-round Champions League qualifier, and it adds to the momentum Rangers have been building. The Hoops were level at 1-1 going into the second leg, but succumbed to a 2-1 defeat in the heat of Athens.

Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic crashed out of the Champions League (Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

This is a huge result for Rangers.

Champions League qualification this year sees clubs earn as high as they’ve ever made. Another £40million in Celtic’s coffers would’ve continued to allow them to race away from Govan.

However, now it’s a level playing field. Celtic have now been denied those riches, and Rangers have built up more momentum.

With each passing day there seems to be another problem coming out of Parkhead. Be it the failure to sign players the manager wants, players refusing to play, or just not winning games.

Rangers’ recruitment drive over the summer has led to a shared view that they’ve improved massively. Where Rangers have been improving, Celtic have been standing still and weakening in key areas.

Momentum has been building at Ibrox since Gerrard’s appointment (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The Champions League failure could also spark a player exodus. The likes of Moussa Dembele may see himself as better than the Europa League and look for a move.

The main aspect is that Rangers don’t have to worry about Celtic racing further away, and can now start to reel them in. Winning the league this season will be tough, but Rangers should come closer given the on-field quality gap has been narrowed.

It also doesn’t matter how both sides perform in the Europa League. The mega-millions aren’t involved in that competition, and unless clubs reach the latter stages it’s simply pocket money.

Whilst Rangers had been going about their business quietly but assuredly, they needed Celtic to have some sort of blow. The defeat in Athens could be it.

It may only be two games into the new season, but Rangers sit above Celtic on points. They’ve brought Celtic closer to them with their new signings, and have built an aura around the club.

Celtic’s financial muscle would’ve had the power to blow that momentum away through continuous Champions League donations.

Now? Celtic are in the same boat Rangers are. That’s what makes the Athens defeat Rangers’ biggest result of the season yet.

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