Pedro Caixinha tells Rangers players ‘Play like it’s the final’

Ryan Jack made his first appearance for Rangers in last weeks first leg against Progres Niederkorn. Picture: SNS.
Ryan Jack made his first appearance for Rangers in last weeks first leg against Progres Niederkorn. Picture: SNS.
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Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha has told his players to treat their second leg against Progres Niederkorn like the Europa League final.

Caixinha’s squad travelled to Luxembourg for tonight’s first qualifying-round game with a 1-0 lead after European football returned to Ibrox last week following a six-year hiatus.

The Portuguese coach is looking for a more aggressive performance by his side and he left them in no doubt he wants them to go for victory at the Stade Josy Barthel.

Caixinha told Rangers TV: “You need to get on this game like it is a final – you are drawing the game and the team that wins, wins the trophy. That is the way we need to think about it.

“We know what to expect now and we think they are going to behave the same way. Most of the time you put on an opponent’s mind in order to see what they are going to do and how they are going to perform in order to organise the game, and I think they are going to do the same.

“That was the point to which we worked, knowing what to expect, and we have worked on going a little bit more out to occupy spaces, explore spaces and be better in the last third.

“We need to do exactly the same, and with those points in consideration, we need to play quickly and we need to 
be more aggressive on our offensive style.

“Sometimes we have to be more direct, looking even more to the goal than to preparing the build-up to the attack when it is not needed. And, we want to start strongly in order to impose our game on our opponent, and try to score as soon as possible.”

Caixinha felt only the final ball or finish was lacking 
when Rangers hosted their opponents last week.

He added: “So after six years, the first match of the season, and the first European match for many players in the squad, we did very well, and tomorrow, I think we will do even better.

“We are leading the game and we are not worried about the away goal. We are just worried about developing our process, and of course, always thinking about winning the game and by winning the game you have the away goal present.”

Rangers travelled without Barrie McKay, who is in their Europa League squad but has been training with the under-20s amid reports linking Nottingham Forest and Cardiff with potential moves for the winger, who has a year left on his contract.

Mexican signings Carlos Pena and Eduardo Herrera were in the 20-man party after failing to make the bench for the first leg and Caixinha revealed one of them would be on the bench.

The last time Rangers were successful in a two-legged continental tie, they overcame Sporting Lisbon to reach the last 16 of the Europa League back in February 2011.

In Luxembourg this evening, both the stage of the tournament and the standard of opposition are far more modest, and the 1-0 advantage secured by Kenny Miller’s goal at Ibrox is not as convincing a lead as they would have anticipated or hoped to take into the second leg.

Rangers can ill afford any sense of complacency in their approach to the task. But according to first-team coach Jonatan Johansson, that won’t be an issue.

“I don’t think it’s going to be easy away from home, it will be a tough game, we are not underestimating the task in any way,” said Johansson. “But I also feel very confident.

“We had them [Progres] watched many times and we knew it was going to be hard [in the first leg]. They are very well organised, they fight hard.

“It was the biggest game in their history so we knew it was going to be tough. There are no easy games in Europe.

“We have been very positive, there were a lot of positives to take out of the game. We had a meeting and we all agreed that we are going in the right direction.

“We played well, especially in the first half. We didn’t get the second goal but I am very confident we will go there and play well and score and go through.

“We looked very much a team, very much a unit, after only two or three weeks together with the [new] guys. The manager’s ideas were coming through in the game. What we were trying to do is clear.

“The first game was always going to be a little bit tense, with the crowd and everything else, it was a fantastic occasion at Ibrox. For some of the players it was their first time together and their first time at Ibrox, so it was always going to be tense. It’s good 
to play together and it will 
definitely have helped the guys for this game.”