Rangers face Standard Liege at Ibrox on Thursday night in their penultimate Europa League group stage fixture.
It’s not a must-win game in terms of the maths regarding progression to the Round of 32. A draw would be enough for Steven Gerrard’s men should Lech Poznan fail to topple Benfica in Portugal.
Even if they were defeated by their Belgian opponents, the Gers would still have an opportunity to escape the group with a win over Lech Poznan the following week.
However, a congested fixture list in the run-up to Christmas makes it imperative that they seal their spot in the knockout rounds with a game to spare.
Rangers have started the season in near-flawless fashion. They currently sit top of the Premiership table, top of Europa League Group D and they sealed their place in the League Cup quarter-finals with an emphatic win over Falkirk at the weekend, stretching their unbeaten run to 23 matches.
Nothing has been won yet, though, and things can change very quickly in football.
Ibrox has been a fortress so far this season but after Standard’s visit, the Gers face four straight away games in quick succession to Dingwall, Poznan, Dundee and Paisley.
It’s crucial that Rangers don’t slip up over that period and in turn, give their imploding rivals a much-needed boost.
Four away games in a fortnight will be difficult, but Rangers will give themselves a much better chance of succeeding in their domestic assignments if progression to the knockout stages doesn’t hinge on the result in Poland.
Topping Group D would be helpful in terms of increasing the chances of a favourable draw. Yet, that is very much low priority in comparison to retaining the current advantage at the top of the Premiership table and reaching the League Cup semi-final.
There’s more depth to the Rangers squad than in previous seasons but with several players currently banned and others self-isolating, the likes of James Tavernier and Connor Goldson are being pushed hard.
If qualification has been secured prior to the 2000km trip to Poznan, players who are particularly key to the club’s chances of silverware can be rested, rather than playing 270 minutes in six days.
Gerrard has managed his squad superbly so far this season and a positive result on Thursday night will allow him to continue his good work into December without fear of impacting the club’s European standing.