Rangers hopeful of signing ‘at least one’ loan target ahead of Shkupi clash

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Rangers remain hopeful of concluding a deal for at least one of their two loan signing targets before the first leg of their Europa League first qualifying round tie against Shkupi on Thursday night.

The Ibrox club are confident of completing moves for both Nigerian striker Umar Sadiq and Mali international midfielder Lassana Coulibaly this summer as manager Steven Gerrard continues his revamping of the first team squad.

Lassana Coulibaly (L) vies with Metz midfielder Vincent Thill during a French League Cup match in December 2017. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

Lassana Coulibaly (L) vies with Metz midfielder Vincent Thill during a French League Cup match in December 2017. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

Under Uefa regulations, Rangers have until midnight on Wednesday to register up to two new players for the match against Macedonian side Shkupi at Ibrox the following evening.

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Gerrard is keen to get both Sadiq and Coulibaly on board as soon as possible, although he is content to go into the Shkupi tie with his current group of players.

Work permits are required in order to get the proposed season-long loan deals for Sadiq and Coulibaly over the line.

Umar Sadiq in action for Torino in October 2017. Picture: Getty images

Umar Sadiq in action for Torino in October 2017. Picture: Getty images

Gerrard has already expressed his high regard for Roma front man Sadiq, a member of Nigeria’s bronze-medal winning squad at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

The 21-year-old joined Roma from Serie B outfit Spezia in a £2.25 million deal in the summer of 2016.

He has subsequently had loan spells at Bologna, Torino and, most recently, at Dutch side NAC Breda where he scored five times in 12 appearances in the second half of last season.

Sadiq is under contract at Roma until 2020 and his parent club are happy to see him make the next step in his development under Gerrard’s guidance.

Attacking midfielder Coulibaly is a product of the Bastia youth academy and remained in the French top flight when he moved to Angers for £1.8 million 12 months ago. The 22-year-old has nine full caps for Mali.

Rangers have added six new faces to the squad since Gerrard took charge last month – goalkeeper Allan McGregor, defenders Connor Goldson, Nikola Katic, full-back Jon Flanagan and midfielders Scott Arfield and Ovie Ejaria. Winger Jamie Murphy has also been signed on a permanent basis following his spell on loan from Brighton in the second half of last season.

Gerrard’s first competitive fixture as manager against Shkupi on Thursday has sold out, providing another indication of the enthusiasm his appointment has engendered among Rangers fans. More than 41,000 turned up for last Friday night’s friendly against English fourth tier side Bury.

It promises to be a daunting atmosphere for unheralded Shkupi who are making their debut in European club competition.

But one of their new signings, Macedonian international midfielder Muarem Muarem, insists Shkupi will not be intimidated as they bid to emulate the shock victory Luxembourg minnows Progres Niederkorn achieved against Rangers at the same stage of the tournament last year.

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“Rangers have a very strong history but, as a team, I don’t know how they are now,” said Muarem. “I know that some years ago they were in the lower divisions but I know they now have a new team.

“We have nothing to lose. We go to Glasgow to play good football and to try and progress. We don’t just go there to lose, we are going for a good result.”