A season-defining period beckons for Rangers following the international break.
Right now, everything is still to play for.
Level on points with Celtic at the top of the Premiership, a 55th top-flight title is still on the cards. Through to the final of the League Cup, a chance to secure major silverware is close at hand. Meanwhile, progression to the knockout stages of the Europa League is very much a realistic prospect, with three points needed from the final two fixtures.
The next few weeks will prove absolutely crucial to the Gers’ hopes on all three of those fronts.
That’s because there’s a congested and extremely difficult list of fixtures between now and the winter break [BBC Sport]. International action is done for 2019 and all focus is now back on club duty.
Sunday’s trip to Hamilton may look a reasonably benign fixture in isolation. Yet, it signals the start of an extremely testing period where four of the next five matches will take place either away from home or at a neutral venue.
In that time, Steven Gerrard’s side must also go to Feyenoord, Aberdeen and Hampden for the League Cup final. Hearts are the only side travelling to Ibrox, until what is likely to be a make or break Europa League fixture against Young Boys on 12th December.
That’s six games in less than three weeks. Three in the Premiership, where any dropped points could prove costly, two in the Europa League and one showpiece final which will determine whether or not the Gers break Celtic’s spell of domestic dominance.
It doesn’t get a whole lot easier thereafter, either. Trips to Fir Park, Easter Road and Parkhead in the league, broken up only by a home game against Killie, will bring us up to January and what, by that stage, will be a well-earned month off.
It’s been an excellent start to the season. In the main, this Rangers side has scored freely and defended stoutly.
Now, though, comes a real test of the squad and the management team’s bottle. The games are set to come thick and fast and as we head into this weekend, there’s no escape from the pressure for the foreseeable.
If they emerge from this period in good shape, with silverware already secured, it will augur well for the rest of the campaign. If they fail, it will prove extremely difficult to atone for.