Rangers Europa League opponents Standard Liege have reportedly had a number of players test positive for COVID-19, but who?
2020 has been just a nightmare of a year, on basically every level imaginable and more. Other than Celtic being awarded an underserved League title, the worst thing to happen is unquestionably the rise and rise of Coronavirus. It’s spread has brought the mightiest economies on earth to their knees, caused untold, and largely unreported, amounts of deaths and poverty globally and changed how we live and think possibly forever.
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It’s all awful, there’s no question. We’d love to be back in the shrine cheering on the Rangers during what’s shaping up to be their best season in a generation, indeed we are thinking of renaming the blog to Mentally Inside Ibrox, but that’s the least of our worries. Everything is difficult, everyone is suffering, life is on pause pending a vaccine which seems an eternity away. Being stuck indoors was only fun when we were allowed to go out.
That said, it’s not all doom and gloom. As we said there, the Gers are absolutely formidable, fans or not, this season. Unbeaten in the League, dominating in Europe, taking three points against a pathetic Celtic side in the first Old Firm derby of the season – even the diehard moaners would struggle to find negativity here.
So too, Rangers have also got a touch lucky, it must be admitted, with opponents getting on the wrong end of COVID-19 tests. First Celtic lost a bunch of first teamers to the swab, now it appears Standard Liege are falling foul as well, As reported by the Scottish Sun:
"“RANGERS’ Europa League opponents Standard Liege have confirmed FOUR positive Covid-19 results ahead of Thursday’s clash in Belgium.Michael-Ange Balikwisha, Nicolas Raskin, Moussa Sissako and goalkeeper coach Jan Van Steenberghe have all returned positive results.The foursome have immediately gone into quarantine and will be no part of the group stage opener with the Light Blues.Damjan Pavlovic and Abdoul Fessal Tapsoba, who tested negative but live together and spent the evening with Sissako, have also been separated from the main group pending the results of a second test.”"
Got some serious feelings of deja vu here. It’s unfortunate for Standard Liege, certainly, but that’s kind of how it goes right now.
Taking a deeper dive, we see it could be a lot worse for Standard. Michael-Ange Balikwisha is a backup striker, likely a bench option at best, having played in just two games this season – a Cedric Itten, if you will. Certainly removes a good option for Les Rouches, but probably wasn’t going to be their first choice in any case.
We await Steven Gerrard’s pre-match press conference to see the damage on our end, but chances are things won’t have changed much since the Celtic game.
Nicolas Raskin is a bigger loss, the central midfielder has been a feature in some seven games so far, with three assists and a goal to his name. I think it’s fair to assume he probably was going to be in the starting XI for this one and it’s here, I feel, that Standard will feel most hard done by. The squad has depth enough to cover for him, but they aren’t full strength without him on the pitch – that’s enough.
As for Moussa Sissako, well, I can’t see any evidence that he’s been involved on a senior level with Standard yet. Likely a bench piece at absolute best. The needle isn’t moved much by his absense and so too with goalkeeper coach Jan Van Steenberghe. I mean, not to negate the value of a keeper coach, but anyone can kick the ball to the number 1 to help him practice diving and jumping.
I mean, without sounding unsympathetic, I’ll definitely take it. I think it’s fair to suggest Rangers were probably the favourites here anyway, but all the moreso as this news has come in. We await Steven Gerrard’s pre-match press conference to see the damage on our end, but chances are things won’t have changed much since the Celtic game. Touch on wood.
It remains to be seen, but hopefully the Gers continue on this great run, cementing themselves as the one true silver lining of the cloud that is 2020.