Rangers ambassador Derek Johnstone has urged ‘something special’ from the Gers squad in order to secure a victory over Braga at Ibrox, via his Glasgow Times column.
The Gers made it to the knockout stages after finishing runners-up in a tough Group G and now knockout European football is finally set to return to Govan.
Initially, it looked as though Steven Gerrard’s side had a very favourable draw, too. Yet, Braga have been in superb form in since the appointment of Ruben Amorim, who has overseen eight wins and a draw in his nine matches in charge.
Therefore, Johnstone believes it’ll take a performance well beyond what the Gers have produced domestically of late, to take a lead from the first leg.
“If they [Rangers] are to reach the last 16, they will need to treat these two fixtures like the Old Firm games in terms of their attitude and application,” wrote Johnstone in the Glasgow Times.
“If you give Braga time and space to play, they will cause you real problems. So we need to force them into mistakes, keep it tight at the back and, of course, be more clinical in front of goal when the chances come around for us.
“This is the time for Rangers to produce a performance, get a result and put their recent troubles behind them…they have a chance to do something special against Braga because it has been a long time, too long since Rangers have been this far in a European competition.”
It’s hard to disagree with Johnstone that Thursday night’s clash should serve as a welcome distraction for the Gers who have struggled domestically since the winter break.
While progression in the Scottish Cup has proved relatively straightforward, Gerrard’s side have scored just eight goals in seven league games and have been suspect defensively on a number of occasions.
The return of European football under the Ibrox lights presents as good an opportunity as any to turn things around, though.
In the group stages, just one goal was conceded at home in three games against quality opponents, while four goals at the top end of the pitch helped accrue seven points out of a possible nine.
Even with Braga’s recent form factored in, a repeat of those sort of performances from the men in Light Blue will give them a good shot at success.