The road to Wembley begins for Rangers on Wednesday, but first they need to reach the Champions League proper.
Champions League Dreams
After the disappointment of last weekend, Rangers will look to put their domestic blip firmly behind them.
Another European Adventure
It would be rather callous to say that the Scottish Premiership title race is run after just one weekend. However, it does feel like that in the white and green half of Glasgow, as Celtic are already three points clear of Rangers.
A dominant win for the Hoops at Celtic Park, a lousy performance by the ‘Gers at Rugby Park. Jubilation for Brendan Rodgers as he returns to his former home. Desperation for Michael Beale and his Ibrox cohorts.
Now it is Ibrox that will play host to Rangers’ next early season sortie and one that sees them embark on another European adventure – one that they hope continues until the end of the year at least.
The target for the blue half of Glasgow is European group stage football for 2023/24. The ultimate prize will be mixing it once again with the continent’s elite in the Champions League. No noses would be turned up if it was the Europa League instead.
Especially as the club were unceremoniously dumped out of Europe at the back end of 2022. After the highs of reaching the Europa League final in May of that year, they could only manage fourth and last in the Champions League group that followed.
Admittedly it was a group that contained the fearsome trio of Napoli, Liverpool and Ajax but the six performances that were served up in front of a combination of Steven Gerrard and Michael Beale left a lot to be desired.
Now that desire pivots towards the visit of Swiss opponents Servette on Wednesday and like their Scottish hosts, league proceedings have also got underway in the Alps. With three games of the campaign in the history books, René Weiler’s men are currently unbeaten.
However, a scratch of the surface would suggest that they have been solid rather than spectacular. The first nine points available have seen five collected by virtue of one solitary win and two draws to go with it.
While also like their Scottish hosts, Servette finished second in their previous edition of domestic competition and with just two places separating the respective nations in terms of UEFA’ s coefficient, this is considered a tough draw for either outfit.
But now it is time for the first of my two tips. First up, it is a focus on the first goalscorer market. Cyriel Dessers may have drawn a blank against Kilmarnock on Saturday but what better way to right that wrong than by breaking the deadlock on Wednesday at odds of 4/1.
While in addition to this, I have placed my focus on James Tavernier. The fullback is rather adept when it comes to set pieces and if he gets a freekick within range, odds of 8/1 for him to score outside the box look incredibly tempting.