Thursday night at Ibrox stadium will see Rangers face off against Rapid Vienna in the Europa League group G clash. Steven Gerrard's men will be looking to bounce back from a completely inept and lacklustre showing on Sunday Vs Livingston, a game where we not only failed to cause the opposition keeper any sort of problems.
The result was not catastrophic by any means, but it does mean Sunday's clash with Hearts is close to a must-win, even this early on. Leagues are not won in October, but they can be lost.
Here are my 5 storylines to follow vs Rapid Vienna.
1 - THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
It's back the old lady that is Ibrox will finally get the chance to show off under the red-hot lights and atmosphere of a European tie. It's been a long time coming and I for one will think back to games like Annan on the 2nd January not so long ago as proof and perspective of just how far we have come in a short space of time. Just look at how teams such as Dundee Utd have struggled dropping one division, never mind 3 and having the core of their playing, back room and administrative staff removed.
We as fans did not abandon the club, even in the hard, dark days and Thursday night as the teams emerge will be our reward as much as anything, irrespective of the result, as without us the club could be in a very different position right now.
There is always something special about games under the lights at Ibrox and the place will be rocking I'm sure, what better way to welcome top-level competition home than a clash between two great names of European football.
Of course, this is not the first time these two clubs have met, although it's been a while, the first meeting was friendly in the early 1930s, a reported 56,000 crammed into Ibrox (our highest attendance that season) to watch Rangers secure a respectable 3-3 draw with SK Rapid Vienna. The Austrians were touring the United Kingdom, Rapid went on to face Liverpool, winning 5-2, before, Queen’s Park Rangers. The Austrian side was so impressed with Rangers and Ibrox they stayed to take on Arbroath in the cup just a few days later, even back then we were pioneers of the game. The side would also meet in the old European Cup, this time in season 1964/65 in a game that saw us win the first leg 1-0 at Ibrox thanks to a first-half goal, only to lose 2-0 in the return fixture.
This is a game I can't wait for, it's what clubs like ours were built and founded for, enjoy everyone and soak it up. This is for the fans as much as anything.
2 - CHANCES
The level and amount of chances we are giving up in games must be stopped, or we will pay a heavy price, especially at this level. Sunday at Livingston was just another glaring example of how easy it has been at times for sides to create against us. The second our pressing is off, just one bit we seem to drop deep, get caught ball watching, or on the wrong side of opposition players time after time.
The way we are set up to play is a high pressing game, very much in the mould of the current Liverpool side, now we clearly have nowhere near the talent of that team, however, what is key in this kind of system is a press, even when the opponents don't have the ball, its about limiting space and the options available to them. Early on Sunday, it was evident for all to see we just simply were not doing this, Livingston very first chance was a glaring example of what happens when we don't press, it becomes far too easy for sides to play through us, we get away with more often than not due to the calibre of opposition, something that won't be the case on Thursday, limiting the chances we give away is vital.
3 - CARETAKER MANAGER SYNDROME
Rapid may have just parted ways with their manager following a 2-0 defeat at the weekend but how many times have we seen a side pick up form following the departure of an unpopular manager, we have to be wary this is a very good side, who are more than capable of playing at a very high level make no mistake. Players win games, managers can only do so much.
Rapid may not be playing at the standard currently that they would like or are capable of, we just have to play at our best in order to ensure we add to the misery of their current plight.
4 - GOALS
Where do our goals come from?. This is my biggest concern on Thursday night, now I do have faith Kyle Lafferty and understand why we signed him, he scores you goals in the Scottish Premier League and first, you build your team to win the league, then worry about Europe. The thing that does concern me is our ability to create any sort of clear-cut chances and our conversion rate.
Set plays, corners and free kicks will be vital we must not let them go to waste. This is the difference in the step up in class, domestically you can afford to miss a chance or two, in Europe you may only get one or two half chances, we have to take them when they drop. I for one can't be arsed with waking up on Friday to read about another hard luck story due to missed chances if you want to progress as a side never mind in this group take them when they come. Rangers sides and Rangers players are made legends in nights like Thursday, the fans are ready are the players?.
5 - WIDE PLAY
Down the flanks is certainly an area we can exploit and gain joy from, defenders all over the world hate players who can either run at them, beating them for pace, or can deliver a pass from deep without having to hit the byline, this is something we have several players capable of doing, from Barisic and our skipper Tav, who can swing it in from anywhere on the park to the ever growing and impressive Ryan Kent who will drive at the fullback, capable of going either inside or outside. Get the ball wide and let them make things happen.
Whoever plays up front will need to be willing to make runs to the near post, even if it's nothing more than a decoy taking defender's attention with them. The midfielders can then time their runs to perfection, arriving late to maximum impact for us. Let's go for it, don't sit in - take the game to them - use the occasion to our advantage, get the bums off seats and see how they cope. We have the players who can do it, no question just don't turn in another showing like Sunday. That was fully on the players. A rising tide raises the boat, after all.
PREDICTION - RANGERS 2 - 1 RAPID VIENNA
Enjoy the gameSteven Harrigan (@steven_harrigan)