Rangers have European fallback as Viaplay Cup final casts shadow over bid to end Seville misery

Rangers can afford to lose to Real Betis – but the same cannot be said about Sunday’s final at Hampden
Phillipe Clement oversees Rangers training on Wednesday ahead of the trip to Seville to face Real Betis. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)Phillipe Clement oversees Rangers training on Wednesday ahead of the trip to Seville to face Real Betis. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Phillipe Clement oversees Rangers training on Wednesday ahead of the trip to Seville to face Real Betis. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Scottish football’s troubled history with Seville is well established and was recalled as recently as October when the national side landed in the Andalusian capital in search of a point to secure qualification for Euro 2024.

They didn’t get it, although this didn't matter in the end. Scottish sides rarely get much in Seville, dating back to a Rangers European tie in 1962, when they lost 2-0 against Seville (they did, though, win 4-0 at Ibrox in return). Eight games, no wins, including last year's Europa League final against Eintracht Frankfurt. Even when they drew, Rangers lost (on penalties).

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The trouble is, to realise an ambition of reaching the Europa League knockout stage, Rangers may need to source a win against Real Betis back in Seville this evening. Of all the cities in all the world….

Perhaps some pragmatism should be applied. Do they really need to target victory, especially in view of their stretched resources at present?

It says everything when fans are querying whether he has been registered to play after Rangers confirmed Alex Rae, and others, will remain part of manager Philippe Clement's backroom staff until the end of the season at least.

Rae remarked that Rangers are "still in four competitions and we have a lot to look forward to this season". Much rests on the next five days, including the identity of one of these tournaments. Europa League or Conference League?

Might Rangers be better served by Conference League football post-Christmas, something already guaranteed? The Ibrox side could then harbour realistic ambitions of progressing to the latter stages. Only Aston Villa look like a team to avoid in that tournament – and even then, who knows?

Rangers could stumble into the Europa League knockout stage even if they lose – or draw – tonight. Seville could yet be the scene of a Scottish triumph, though one spawned in a completely different city. Limassol in Greece in this instance, where Aris Limassol host Sparta Praha, who are also bidding to secure a place in the top two in Group C. But they must win to achieve that.

It's a complicated situation and that's before one even considers what awaits Rangers this weekend at Hampden. Remember Barry Robson's anguish when Aberdeen had sealed their place in the Viaplay Cup final after last month's victory over Hibs? The Pittodrie manager noted his side's clash with Eintracht Frankfurt just a few days before what he claimed was an unhelpfully scheduled final. As it turns out, only some admittedly significant prize money rests on that tie.

Rangers, meanwhile, still have work to do if they wish to guarantee Europa League football next year. Most fans will view this as being of secondary importance to winning the League Cup for the first time since 2011.

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Despite Clement’s unbeaten start to date, failure to land the trophy will be viewed as a massive setback.

Clement's options are limited due to injuries. He would struggle to come up with a Rangers shadow team, even if he wished to do so this evening. Jose Cifuentes can at least run himself into the ground knowing he is suspended for Sunday's final.

Others might be alert to the twin demands. Subconsciously or not, they might keep something back for the weekend. Clement must decide how to pitch his pre-match talk.

Seville has proved inhospitable enough when focus is 100 per cent on the task in hand. The stage is set for a fascinating night in a beautiful city that rarely does footballing visitors from Scotland any favours.



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