Villarreal vs Rangers promises to be an exciting occasion for all involved, but the Spaniards’ goalkeeper has just provided Steven Gerrard’s men with big motivation.
It’s Rangers’ first foray into group stage competition in Europe since they qualified for the Champions League back in 2010. That alone has provided a real element of excitement for Gers players and fans regarding their first match at El Madrigal.
Yet, despite the excitement of the supporters, it appears there’s an overwhelming confidence in the camp of the La Liga giants.
Goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo has written off any chance Rangers have of qualifying. Speaking in today’s Daily Record, the Villarreal shot-stopper gave his prediction of the two sides who’ll be going through.
“Rangers have a lot of history in Europe. They’ve suffered internal problems in recent years but they’re still one of Scotland’s biggest clubs. So we’ll respect our rivals but we’re only interested in victory. There is no excuses for us, especially at home.
“The group won’t be easy but my prediction is that Villarreal and Spartak will top the group and follow into the next round.
“We’re obliged to beat Rangers on Thursday night and open the group with a victory.”
Predictions before the groups start is a dangerous game to play, but confidence is clearly high in the Villarreal camp.
Given that Asenjo admits he doesn’t know much about Rangers, it’s odd of him to make predictions. There’s no doubting Villarreal will be the favourites on Thursday night, but comments like this will put them under pressure.
Added to that, it’s not as if Villarreal have had a great start to the season. Of their three La Liga matches so far, the Yellow Submarine has lost two of them and drawn one. Having yet to taste victory this season, there’s clearly a vulnerability there for Rangers to exploit.
One thing Steven Gerrard’s men will have to get used to is this kind of dismissive attitude. Rangers haven’t been in European competition for years, and this means that they’ll be underestimated by most.
A good performance on Thursday night and throughout the competition will help rebuild that reputation once more.
For now, Gerrard and his troops must look to find a way to ram the comments down Asenjo’s throat.