Serene start for Rangers in league - but tougher challenges await, in Europe and on transfer front

It was as serene a start to Rangers’ title defence that Steven Gerrard could have wished for.

Heerenveen midfielder Joey Veerman has been linked with a move to Rangers all summer.

In front of 23,000 noisy, excited supporters at Ibrox, Rangers kicked off the 2021/22 Premiership campaign with a straightforward 3-0 win over Livingston.

A matter of hours later, Glasgow rivals Celtic – still their strongest opponents for the league crown despite the tumult at Parkhead – slipped up, losing 2-1 to Hearts at Tynecastle. After just one match, Rangers are three points clear of their oldest foes, with a four-goal superiority. Gerrard has every right to have a spring in his step as he prepares for the upcoming week.

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Tougher challenges lie in wait, though. On Tuesday, Rangers begin their quest for the Champions League group stages with a third-round qualifying tie against their Swedish counterparts Malmo at the Eleda Stadion. Malmo made hard work of HJK Helsinki in the previous round, but are an accomplished outfit at this level. They will pose a stern examination of Rangers’ credentials, and had the weekend off to prepare for this match while Rangers were in action against the Lions.

Gerrard will hope that the injury to midfielder Ianis Hagi who opened the scoring against Livingston after just eight minutes, is not too serious. “We've got good physios and good doctors here so hopefully we can pull a rabbit out the hat and get him ready for Tuesday, because he's going to be important for us,” Gerrard said. Hagi is a big player for Rangers, involved in a large number of goals, be in scoring or assisting. However, if he doesn’t make it, Scott Wright has done his cause no harm for inclusion after replacing the Romanian and scoring a fine goal.

His 78th-minute strike, that all but wrapped up proceedings before Kemar Roofe added gloss with a 90th-minute goal, was a lovely bit of improvisation with the outside of his right foot, and last season’s arrival from Aberdeen has given Gerrard food for thought. "We're working on him a lot in the final third in terms of getting numbers into his game,” Gerrard said of Wright. “Full of energy, he sees a pass and he's always looking forward and looking to penetrate. He's quick and got his rewards from another strong performance. He's really in my thinking for Tuesday night.”

One player who may be leaving Gerrard’s sphere, however, is Heerenveen midfielder Joey Veerman, who has been constantly linked with a move to Ibrox this summer.

The 22-year-old has already been subject of a £5million bid from Italian outfit Verona, which was rejected by the Dutch club. However, their Eredivisie rivals Feyenoord are credited with a serious interest in Veerman and the player has spoken of his desire to move to Rotterdam.

“My management have received some kind of offer [from Feyenoord],” Veerman told ESPN in Netherlands. “I think they have asked Heerenveen how much they want for me.

“So in the end I hear that they have not made an official offer with Heerenveen, but that they really want me.

“Yes, I would be a very happy man if I can go there. It could be a good step for me. I certainly think so.”

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