Rangers prepare for ‘best Liverpool we can face’

Venue: Anfield Date: Tuesday, 4 October Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live & BBC Radio Scotland Extra; live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app

Rangers are preparing to face the best version of Liverpool in the Champions League, despite their ongoing struggles in the Premier League.

Rangers, who sit second in the Scottish Premiership, have been beaten heavily in both Group A matches so far but manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst says there are “things to exploit” in Jurgen Klopp’s side.

“It’s going to be very difficult,” he said. “This is a team who have been in three finals in five years and is one of the best in Europe. If you look at the ones we’ve faced, this is probably the strongest side.

“They didn’t have a good result on Saturday but they have quality players and a fantastic coach so we’re preparing for the best Liverpool we can face.”

Manager Jurgen Klopp said his team have to go “back to the basics” to try to improve their defending, having conceded 14 goals in nine games across all competitions, keeping just two cleans sheets.

Liverpool were humbled by Napoli in their group opener, before beating Ajax at Anfield in their second match. Now they welcome a Rangers side who they have never faced in a competitive match.

“They are a good team, well coached and had an exceptional season in Europe last year,” Klopp said of the Europa League finalists. “They have also had results they don’t want and they will definitely want to change that.

“Rangers’ run in Europe last year was exceptional. We expect a proper fight and that is what we prepare for.”

Team news

Scotland captain Andy Robertson is likely to be absent for Liverpool again as he continues to recover from the injury that caused him to miss last month’s Nations League games.

Ibrahima Konate and Scotland Under-21 defender Calvin Ramsay both trained on Monday, but Naby Keita, Curtis Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were not involved in the session.

Tom Lawrence was not expected to be involved for Rangers, but Van Bronckhorst has disclosed that the midfielder will be absent until after the World Cup and may not play again this year after a new injury in training.

James Sands is suspended after his red card against Napoli, but Ben Davies is available despite being replaced at half-time in the weekend win at Hearts.

What they said

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: “When you spot a problem and think you have the solution, you expect [it] to be instant. That’s never the case in football.

“Defending is an art and it worked for us really well for a long time. But with it not working, you realise you have to go back to the basics. We can’t always start anew. If we can help the boys with ways to defend differently, we have to do that.”

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst: “It’s a big opportunity for everyone. In the Champions League you play against the best players and that is a motivation for the whole team and me as a coach.

“They are at home, had a bad result in the first game, but the pressure is always on both teams. They are used to performing at this level but it is a huge step for us. We embrace the challenge. It’s a hard place to come but we still believe it is possible.”


Commentator’s notes

Liam McLeod, BBC Scotland

Despite the English side normally being strong favourites, if history has taught us anything it is that these ‘Battle of Britain’ European games can be great levellers.

The most recent had Celtic draw twice with Manchester City in this competition. On their previous Champions League adventure, Rangers drew with Manchester United at Old Trafford, while Celtic have beaten the Red Devils and won at Anfield.

Hearts, too, have drawn at the home of Liverpool and at Spurs. All within the last 20 years.

If anyone at Rangers needed inspiration, they need look no further than two of Walter Smith’s favourite nights as manager as they defeated the then English champions Leeds United – with Gordon- Strachan, Gary McAllister and Eric Cantona on show – in both legs of their European Cup second round tie in 1992.

That sealed their very first place in the Champions League group stage during the inaugural season of the tournament in its current guise.`

Match stats

  • This is the first European meeting between Liverpool and Rangers.
  • Rangers have only won one of their seven away games in England (D2 L4), beating Leeds United 2-1 in the Champions League qualifying phase in November 1992 with goals from Mark Hateley and Ally McCoist.
  • Liverpool’s last meeting with Scottish opponents in the European Cup was in 1980-81, winning 5-0 on aggregate against Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen (1-0 away, 4-0 home). They went on to win the competition that year.
  • There has only been one instance of a Scottish side winning away at an English side in the European Cup or Champions League in seven attempts (D2 L4), with Celtic beating Leeds 1-0 in the first leg of the 1969-70 semi-final.
  • Liverpool have won 13 of their last 15 home Champions League group stage matches (D1 L1), scoring 36 goals. Their only defeat was against Atalanta in November 2020.
  • Rangers’ 0-4 defeat against Ajax on matchday one was their heaviest in a Champions League away game. They had one shot on target – eight fewer than their opponents, and only four touches in the opposition box.
  • Rangers are still looking for their first Champions League goal this season, having never previously failed to score in their opening three games. Only Viktoria Plzen (two) and Sevilla (three) have had fewer shots on target than Rangers (four).

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