Another mammoth European encounter takes place under the bright lights of Ibrox on Tuesday night, as Rangers face off against PSV Eindhoven in the first leg of their Champions League qualifying playoff round tie.
Giovanni Van Bronckhorst‘s side battled past Royale Union Saint Gilloise of Belgium to keep their continental dreams alive, while the Dutch giants sent Monaco packing in the previous round.
Not since the 2010-11 season have Rangers plied their trade in the group stage of the Champions League, but the Gers are now the closest that they have been since to ending that barren streak after a few unsuccessful quests in the Europa League.
Of course, defeating Eintracht Frankfurt in the final of Europe’s second-tier competition would have guaranteed them a place in pot one for the group-stage draw, but Rangers have been forced to do it the hard way, and they sure did do it the hard way against Union SG in round three.
Van Bronckhorst’s side were under pressure to deliver at Ibrox after a 2-0 first-leg defeat away from home, but goals from James Tavernier, Malik Tillman and Antonio Colak turned the tie around for Rangers, who carried that momentum into their domestic meeting with St Johnstone.
The 55-time Scottish champions put four past Callum Davidson‘s side without reply on Saturday for their third successive victory and third successive clean sheet in all competitions, with each of those triumphs coming in front of their own supporters.
None of RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund, Red Star Belgrade or Braga could get the better of Rangers at Ibrox in the Europa League last season, but PSV ought to fear no-one after battling their way through the third round against revered opposition.
PSV produced a performance that would have delighted both the striker and manager in Ruud van Nistelrooy when Monaco came to town for their second leg of their Champions League third-round qualifying tie, as the Eredivisie powerhouses sought to make home advantage count after a 1-1 first-leg draw.
A frenetic battle at the Philips Stadion ultimately went to extra time thanks to Erick Gutierrez‘s 89th-minute header to level the scores at 2-2, and in the 109th minute of the contest, Luuk de Jong picked an ideal time to score his first goal back at PSV to send his side through 4-3 on aggregate.
Attacking excellence was also on the menu in PSV’s most recent Eredivisie encounter, which ended 5-2 in their favour against Go Ahead Eagles, with Xavi Simons scoring a brace against their 10-man opponents.
Since Rangers last reached the group stage of the Champions League in 2010, PSV have fallen at that hurdle twice – as well as reaching the last 16 of the 2015-16 edition – but their qualifying journey came to an end at this stage against Benfica last year.
Rangers and PSV actually met in Europe in the 2010-11 season after the Scottish side dropped down to the Europa League, where they fell to a 1-0 aggregate loss in the last-16, and PSV also come into Tuesday’s game with an 11-match unbeaten streak in all competitions to protect.
Key attacker Ryan Kent was a notable absentee from the squad to face St Johnstone at the weekend, as was defender James Sands, who started in the second-leg success over Union SG.
Sands is expected to recover from illness in time for Tuesday’s game, and Van Bronckhorst has also played down fears of a fresh concern for Kent, who should be fine to take over from Rabbi Matondo on the left-hand side.
Kemar Roofe, Filip Helander and Ianis Hagi make up a trio of absentees for the hosts, who could elect to bring Tom Lawrence and Scott Arfield back into the starting lineup following their goals at the weekend.
Alfredo Morelos is still losing his battle to regain his spot in the attack over Colak, and Van Bronckhorst has hinted that the Colombian is still not quite ready for a full 90 minutes.
As far as PSV are concerned, Van Nistelrooy’s attack remains depleted as Noni Madueke, Carlos Vinicius and Yorbe Vertessen continue their recoveries, while defenders Mauro Junior and Olivier Boscagli are also set to miss out.
Twenty-one-year old Richard Ledezma – who recently recovered from an ACL injury – was the victim of Mats Deijl‘s red-card worthy challenge at the weekend and should cede his place in the middle to Joey Veerman as the club wait to learn the extent of the damage to his ankle.
Xavi Simons has made a very strong case for himself to start the first leg over Guus Til, while Philipp Max ought to return at left-back in place of Fredrik Oppegard.
Rangers possible starting lineup:
McLaughlin; Tavernier, Goldson, Sands, Barisic; Arfield, Lundstram, Lawrence; Tillman, Colak, Kent
PSV Eindhoven possible starting lineup:
Benitez; Mwene, Teze, Obispo, Max; Sangare, Veerman; Bakayoko, Simons, Gakpo; De Jong