Despite boasting a relatively rich European history, Rangers have failed to reach the Champions League proper for over a decade. Having suffered serious off-pitch travails in the intervening period, their absence has undoubtedly been prolonged beyond the worst fears of even the most pessimistic fan.
Now taking their first step on the road back to the big time, a revived Rangers begin their quest for a seat at the continent’s top table with a potentially problematic visit to Sweden.
In the build-up to their two-legged meeting with Malmo over the course of the next week, the Gers have certainly been busy giving a fair share of minutes to an increasingly deep first-team squad.
Finishing off their pre-season by playing twice in the space of 24 hours – first a goalless draw with Brighton, then a glamorous game against Real Madrid – Steven Gerrard’s men boosted both condition and confidence ahead of their defence of the Scottish title.
An impressive 2-1 win against Carlo Ancelotti’s Real – featuring a second-half goal from summer signing Fashion Sakala – was then followed by Saturday’s Premiership opener against Livingston.
With 78% of possession and having led from the eighth minute, Rangers strolled to a regulation 3-0 victory at Ibrox, but are set to face a much sterner test in midweek.
Having given an excellent account of themselves in the Europa League last term, expectations in the camp may justifiably be rising, but precedent does not bode well for the Light Blues. Coincidentally, the last time the Glasgow club reached this stage of the competition in 2011, it was Malmo who knocked them out.
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With their visitors’ only survivors of that encounter being veteran pair Steven Davis and Allan McGregor, much water has passed under the bridge since something of a battle at the Eleda Stadion.
Three men saw red that day, but Malmo will be seeking a more serene occasion this week, as they aim to build on recent domestic dominance.
Head coach Jon Dahl Tomasson – like his opposite number, a renowned former star for club and country – has the club on course for successive titles under his leadership, after they won their last three Allsvenskan matches by a cumulative scoreline of 11-0; cruising past Sirius, Degerfors and Mjallby