First Touch

Rangers Poised for Significant Spring

Celtic may be in pole position in the Premiership—as of this writing, anyway—but Rangers are arguably going for greater glory.

The Full Scottish with Brian P. Dunleavy  

Yes, winning the league in Scotland is paramount, what with its (virtually) guaranteed qualification for the Champions League group stages and the riches they bring. But while Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side have struggled (relatively) in the league, they have turned heads in the Europa League.

Now in the semi-finals of that competition, with opponents RB Leipzig, ’Gers could reach the final for the second time this century (the last time being 2008, when they lost to Zenit Saint Petersburg). Celtic last made the final in 2003, when the competition was still called the UEFA Cup, and lost to Jose Mourinho’s Porto in Seville.

If that’s not enough for the Ibrox club to claim at least a goodly portion of the bragging rights in Glasgow, we’re not sure what is.

All of which is amazing, given that van Bronckhorst seemed on the verge of getting the sack just 10 days ago. That all changed with a thrilling win in extra time over Braga in the Europa League quarter-final on Thursday, to take the tie on aggregate, and a second extra-time victory in quick succession, over Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final on Sunday.

van Bronckhorst

Rangers forward Kemar Roofe seemed to rebuild his reputation, too, by scoring the winner against Braga and running himself ragged against Celtic at Hampden three days later.

Now, after pundits and punters alike were questioning van Bronckhorst’s appointment as the replacement for Steven Gerrard for much of the season, the critics have changed their tune on the Dutchman. He, meanwhile, has deflected all this new-found praise on to his players.

“Of course, it has been a terrific week for us winning against Braga and winning today and reaching the cup final,” van Bronckhorst told the press after the win over Celtic. “The momentum this week has been perfect. We have a lot of games to play in the next few weeks, so it gives us a lot of confidence. But in every game you have to start all over again. We are going to use this week to refresh, recover and rest and make sure everyone is ready for the last weeks of the season.”

Weeks that could provide European and Scottish Cup glory.

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