Beale on ‘mega game’ for RangersChampions League qualifying: Rangers v Servette

Venue: Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow Date: Wednesday, 9 August Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Watch on BBC Scotland, BBC iPlayer and with accompanying live text coverage on the BBC Sport website & app; listen on BBC Radio Scotland Extra/DAB/810MW

Rangers “need to get the season started” in Wednesday’s Champions League opener against Servette, said manager Michael Beale.

Defeat by Kilmarnock in Saturday’s Scottish Premiership marked the opening of the Ibrox side’s competitive season and Servette visit Glasgow in the third qualifying round first leg.

The winner will face PSV Eindhoven or Sturm Graz in the play-off round.

“This is a mega game for Rangers,” Beale told BBC Scotland.

“We need to get the season started. The season started at 5.15 on Saturday but if you’re a Rangers fan, player, member of staff, it feels like we haven’t started. It’s important that we start well in this game.

“It’s been a really frustrating few days. The best thing for us is this game coming now. We can’t afford to look back.”

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Rangers are guaranteed group stage football in either the Champions League or Europa League if they lose either the tie with Servette or the play-off round.

The Swiss side overcame Belgian side Genk on penalties in the second qualifying round, despite an early red card in the deciding leg.

“We know what the Champions League can bring financially and even getting through this game the parachute payment if you didn’t win that next game,” said Beale. “Our eyes are certainly focused on getting to the group stage and improving on last year’s showing.

“This month, we’ve got so much riding on the fixtures we’ve got coming up. It’s an exciting month and what Saturday’s done is it’s probably lowered a bit of expectation, it’s raised a few eyebrows around the squad so that’s a great opportunity in itself.

“[Servette’s] mentality and their work ethic [against Genk] was outstanding so they’ll come to Ibrox with that in the back of their mind, that they’ve beaten a very good team.

“This game, like most games in Europe, will go to the second leg late in terms of the result being in the balance because there’s not too much between any of the teams.”

Visa issue sidelines Servette midfielder

The game comes too soon for Rangers defenders Ben Davies and Ridvan Yilmaz but both are expected back this month.

Forward Fashion Sakala has completed a move to Saudi Arabia, while injured midfielder Tom Lawrence and winger Rabbi Matondo were omitted from the squad.

Servette are furious that Cameroon midfielder Gael Ondoua, who holds Russian citizenship, was not issued with a visa in time to travel with the rest of the squad.

Striker Enzo Crivelli is suspended and influential winger Miroslav Stevanovic is injured, along with first-choice goalkeeper Jeremy Frick.

Rangers seek Champions League redemption

Last season, Rangers reached the group stages of the Champions League for the first time in 12 years but the 2022 Europa League runners-up suffered home and away defeats to Liverpool, Ajax and Napoli, setting an unwanted tournament record for the worst goal difference.

“The [Europa League] run was great… Not so great memories of the Champions League,” said Rangers midfielder John Lundstram.

“We didn’t quite perform as well as we’d want to and we want to try and correct that this year and make a better show of ourselves. So we do want to qualify.

“It’s not nice when you know you didn’t perform to the level you know you’re capable of and you’ve shown and we know we can do better.

“Playing up against absolute world-class players every other week is great experience but it would have been a better experience if we done a little bit better, of course it would.

“So hopefully, we can we can progress through to the group stages, we can put in a better performance but of course that’s a distance away.”

Match facts

  • Wednesday’s match will be the first competitive meeting of Rangers and Servette
  • The Ibrox side last faced Swiss opposition in 2019, losing and drawing against Young Boys in the Europa League group stage
  • Rangers last beat a Swiss side by defeating Grasshopper 2-1 in a 1996 Champions League match
  • This season is Swiss Super League runners-up Servette’s first Champions League campaign since 1999, when they were domestic champions
  • The Geneva team last went beyond the qualifying stages of a European competition when they reached the first round of the Uefa Cup in 2002