Rangers kick off their Premier Sports Cup campaign this week, hot on the heels of Wednesday’s abject home defeat to Swedish champions Malmo, where they squandered a one-goal and one-man advantage to miss out on a place in the Champions League playoffs.
Steven Gerrard’s side again succumbed to their Achilles’ heel in defence, conceding a couple of well-taken second-half goals by Croatian striker Antonio Colak to slump out of the continent’s top tier and into a Europa League tie with either Alashkert or Kairat.
That, of course, brings potentially severe financial implications for the Govan outfit, as debts need to be repaid and players are set to be sold.
Now, after three of their first four games of the season resulted in defeat – with 2-1 losses in both legs against Malmo coming either side of a Premiership humbling by Dundee United; their first league reverse in a total of 41 matches – last term’s runaway champions are under pressure to get back to winning ways.
Providing them with an ideal opportunity to do so, they now return to a competition in which they are far and away the record winners, having lifted this particular piece of silverware eight times more than Celtic to date.
Those who were present will no doubt recall fond memories of the last time their team hosted Dunfermline in the League Cup, back in 2017, as a 6-0 victory – which featured a double from star
striker Alfredo Morelos – saw them through to the quarter-finals. Nonetheless, they have failed to claim the trophy in over a decade now, so will be determined to put that right this year.
Despite their hosts’ travails, Dunfermline come into Friday night’s encounter as long-shot outsiders, particularly as their start to the Championship campaign has been decidedly below expectations..
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The Pars were held to a 2-2 draw by Greenock Morton on the opening day, before last weekend’s 3-0 reverse on home soil, as Peter Grant’s men capitulated to Partick Thistle.
A team that has been out of the top flight since the 2012 season had, though, started the summer enlivened by Grant’s ambitious re-modelling of the squad following his appointment in May.
An advocate of bold, expressive football, the former Celtic midfielder won many admirers while with part-time Alloa Athletic, and his new club’s League Cup group campaign brought some progressive performances.
Their aggregate total of 13-4 from three of four cup ties during July – the other brought a 1-0 loss to St Mirren – had fans purring, but events since have dampened enthusiasm ahead of an intimidating trip to Glasgow