As Rangers prepare to kickstart their fourth straight Europa League group stage campaign under Steven Gerrard, you’ll forgive some for mulling over the Champions League disappointment to Malmö.
The Ibrox side’s failure to qualify for European football’s elite competition this season still very much sticks in the craw and for plenty it’s a sensitive subject which they can only now address with a degree of candour.
Failure to make the Group Stages was a sizeable financial blow (somewhere in the region of £30m-£40m) but for Rangers fans – desperate to signify their return to Europe’s top table after a decade in the doldrums – the scar runs a little deeper.
The winners of this season’s Scottish Premiership will make the Champions League next season – so there is cause for optimism – and a revamped Europa League is a satisfactory runner’s up prize.
But as the Champions League kicked off this season, Rangers’ conquerors Malmö gave Gers fans a double-edged taste of what they’re missing from the competition.
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The Swedish Champions welcomed Italian giants Juventus to Scandinavia for a glamour match that wound up being competitive in name only.
The Swedes wound up 3-0 down by half-time as goals from Alex Sandro, Paolo Dybala and Alvaro Morata ended the contest before both teams had the chance for a breather.
Had the Gers steered through qualification then – hypothetically – they’d be welcoming Juve instead.
Steven Gerrard spoke after his side’s exit in Champions League Qualification claiming that perhaps his team are “not ready” for the significant step up in class in the competition.
A failure to beat a streetwise Malmö side swept away on the opening day of a group also containing last year’s winners Chelsea and Russian goliaths Zenit perhaps consolidates this.
The Rangers team – Ibrox stalwarts Steven Davis and Allan McGregor aside – are sizably inexperienced at Champions League level and this season must be a steep learning curve.
Underestimate any side at this level at your peril, but understand even for the Ibrox side’s conquerors, earning one point from 18 may well be an achievement at Europe’s top table.
Rangers’ attention instead will turn to welcoming Lyon to Glasgow where the absence one key player has led to accusations of the ex-Celtic star “bottling it” from Ibrox.