As Rangers prepare for another Europa League clash at Ibrox under Steven Gerrard, they know that this time around even a point will be enough to secure European football after Christmas.

For decades getting to the hallowed point of continental competition after the Christmas spirit has been and gone has been the target for Rangers and Old Firm rivals Celtic.

SL Benfica v Rangers: Group D - UEFA Europa League
Rangers boss Steven Gerrard has transformed the Gers fortunes on the European stage and they are one of the dark horses of the Europa League this season. (Photo by Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

But with the Gers yet to be beaten this season – on home soil or abroad – just how far can Rangers go in the competition this year?

Steven Gerrard has undoubtedly restored pride in the Rangers name in Europe with the performances of his side over the last three seasons.

The first time around Rangers heroically managed to make the group stages in Ufa, with everything beyond that a bonus.

Last season, Rangers competed in one of the competition’s toughest groups and managed to secure a place in the knockout rounds for the first time in close to a decade.

Anything beyond the Round of 32 was a bonus and the team delivered, that magical Ibrox night against Braga perhaps the stand-out moment in Gerrard’s Rangers tenure.

But in butting heads with Bayer Leverkusen, Rangers met an adversary that even the staunchest among us will admit was a bridge too far.

The Bundesliga club dropped down from the Champions League and ousted Rangers but amid transfer talk concerning their best players after the restart, fell to eventual finalists Inter Milan.

But this season Rangers have looked a different animal in Europe.

Instead of looking like an underdog punching above their weight, the experiences of this side have moulded them into a team which looks like they belong, or at least like they believe they do.

Earning two draws against high-spending Benfica was an admirable feat – even if the club lost two-goal leads in both matches – and is an experience which will stand them in good stead in the latter stages of this competition.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Rangers FC - UEFA Europa League Round of 16: Second Leg
Facing Bayer Leverkusen – across two campaigns admittedly – certainly appeared a bridge too far for Rangers in the Europa League as they lost 4-1 on aggregate. (Photo by Martin Meissner/Pool via Getty Images)

Steven Gerrard’s side will also be the team which the bigger clubs do not want to draw, the threat of an upset by our tactically adept, technical side a genuine possibility.

Rangers are clearly not the favourites for this competition; a host of Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A sides stand between them and winning the trophy, not to mention those sides which drop down from the Champions League.

But should Rangers make it to the last 32 and avoid some of the bigger names in the draw, then there’s no reason why they can’t at least match their achievements from last season.

From there – if the draw is once again kind and we avoid tournament favourites – I think anything else is a bonus and the ride promises to be enthralling.

Rangers v SL Benfica: Group D - UEFA Europa League
Rangers went shoulder-to-shoulder with Benfica in the Europa League groups and this test will stand them in good stead for the latter stages of the competition. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Can Rangers go on and lift the Europa League trophy this season? It’s a tall order and for me anything beyond the last 16 is a massive achievement.

But it won’t stop me starting to dream if we can go one step further than we did in the last campaign.

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