Rangers will be aiming to get themselves off the mark in this season’s Champions League when they host Liverpool on Wednesday, having suffered three straight defeats in Group A.
The Reds, meanwhile, will hope to extend their three-point gap ahead of third-placed Ajax.
Rangers’ first season back in the Champions League group stages for 12 years has not exactly gone to plan so far, with the Gers comprehensively beaten by Ajax, Napoli and Liverpool.
Champions League football was always likely to be a challenging step up in class for the Europa League runners-up, but having beaten the likes of Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig on the way to the final in Seville last season, Giovanni van Bronckhorst may have expected his players to be more competitive than they have shown this time around.
The Dutchman switched to a back five at Anfield last week, but they were still ripped apart on numerous occasions during the 2-0 defeat, with Allan McGregor pulling off eight saves across the course of the match in an astonishing display of goalkeeping.
His side returned to winning ways with a thumping 4-0 win against St Mirren at Ibrox in the Scottish Premiership at the weekend, and there is little doubt that it will be a much tougher experience for Liverpool facing Rangers away from home.
Although Ibrox witnessed some big European nights last season, in truth very little compares to Europe’s elite competition and the soundtrack and allure that comes with it. Rangers’ mission on Wednesday is clear: they must win in order to remain in the Champions League.
Liverpool, meanwhile, have a much healthier position in Group A than when leaving Naples with a 4-1 defeat in their opening match, but there are still glaring signs of vulnerabilities in Jurgen Klopp’s camp after their 3-2 defeat to Premier League leaders Arsenal on Sunday.
As has been a recurring theme in recent times, the Reds conceded first to Gabriel Martinelli’s tidy finish with barely a minute in the match gone, before Darwin Nunez bagged his first goal since the opening day of the season to level the proceedings after 34 minutes.
Nunez’s equaliser was a fully deserved one, too, with Thiago Alcantara helping the visitors wrestle control of the match. However, once again, Klopp’s side shot themselves in the foot in a moment of transition, with Martinelli racing up the pitch from a Liverpool corner to square the ball for Bukayo Saka to tap home on the stroke of half time.
Substitute Roberto Firmino continued his excellent form in front of goal by rifling the ball into the far corner with his weaker foot eight minutes after the break, but an Arsenal winner felt inevitable and duly came when Saka converted a penalty following Thiago’s trip on Gabriel Jesus.
With Liverpool already 14 points behind Arsenal and trailing Manchester City by only one fewer, a league title challenge feels increasingly unlikely, making their progression to the Champions League knockout stage more important than ever.
With Napoli’s match against Ajax finishing before his side kickoff at Ibrox on Wednesday, Klopp may have a watchful eye on events in Naples, as a home win would mean that the Reds would have the opportunity to move six points clear of the Eredivisie champions ahead of their trip to Amsterdam in two weeks’ time.
Rangers Champions League form:
Rangers form (all competitions):
Liverpool Champions League form:
Liverpool form (all competitions):
We say: Rangers 1-3 Liverpool
We expect Rangers to give Liverpool a much tougher match than the Reds’ comfortable 2-0 win at Anfield last week, but the visitors are likely to have too much firepower in the end.
The Gers’ necessity to go for the win may play into Klopp’s side’s hands as, despite their recent defensive issues, they still retain bags of pace and quality in attack.