Rangers 1-0 win over Kilmarnock yesterday may not have been an instantly classic, but the return of the Europa League provides a welcome and exciting change…
Look, let’s be honest, Rangers haven’t looked like they’ve been getting out of first gear in a while. You can blame injuries, a few players hitting middling form, or perhaps late season fatigue, but the fact remains that games have been far less inspiring of late.
That’s not necessarily a bad sign for the present or a worse omen for the future, it just is what it is. There’s a rule in football that the form of champions is not thrashing everyone but managing to get points in the games you either didn’t deserve to, or on any other season wouldn’t have. Or, to put it another way, history records the points won not the performances that went towards them.
Jurgen Klopp banging on about how his Liverpool side were the better team in their 3-1 loss to Leicester City is laughable, from the outside because it’s irrelevant. What does he want, a cookie? You played well, good for you, but you lost and lost convincingly. Football doesn’t care about performances if the results don’t go with it and that’s the difference between the team in second and the team in sixth.
So too, that’s the difference between Rangers and the rest this year. We’ve thumped just about everyone at least once, Celtic twice for good measure, and moments where we’ve looked like we could just about beat any team in football. We’ve been that good. Then there’s games like our 1-0 victory over Kilmarnock where you just have to take the three points and move on. It wasn’t a classic, it wasn’t particularly inspiring, but it was one win closer to the 55 so…does it really matter?
Ultimately, not really. Every team goes through games like this, months like this, but that difference, that champion’s pedigree, is taking the points just the same as those games and months in which dominance was far more overt.
It’s with this in mind that I’m personally, really, thankful that we’ve got the Europa starting back up this week to look forward to. The return of intenational competition, and a fixture against a side who will be looking to actually give the light blues a game, may well be just what the lads need to reignite the spark a bit. It seems I’m not alone in that, as Steven Gerrard expressed the same, as quoted by BBC Sport;
“People should be excited – we are in a good place.
It will be a nice break away from the league and we will give everything we have got to try and set it up for the second leg.
My focus hasn’t been too much on Antwerp up until now, but I know they’ve got a striker suspended for Thursday and one about to come back from injury. I know there has been a managerial change since the draw was made.
It’s a really good tie for us. It will be tough, but we are ready.”
Variety is the spice of life, and all that. Beyond that fact, Bears should remember that Kemar Roofe and Alfredo Morelos will return from suspension, their presence sorely missed at the front and we can actually look at fielding a best-XI, not a makeshift bunch lacking that same organic shape and form we’ve flouted so convincingly this season.
The chance for the Gers to show how good they can be on the international scale should also not be lost on the lads, or Gerrard. Flying the flag for Scotland in Europe, after Celtic’s embarassing double exit, Rangers are blessed to face a side that arguably is among the more beatable choices at this stage of the competition. Antwerp won’t be pushovers, and the distance between themselves and Brugge at the top of the table mean they can easily go all in for this matchup, but most would consider the light blues to be favourites here.
In any case, this is exactly the kind of break from the Kilmarnocks, Motherwells and Saint Johnstones of this world. Rangers are already charging towards a historic title in the most historic way possible, but the chance is there to make it something even more special than could have ever been imagined.
All the same, I don’t think I’d mind another dodgy 1-0 win either, heck I’ll gladly take four more of those in the League and as many of them as UEFA need us to make. Performances may not be what they once were, but the results are still the same. Long may that, at least, continue.