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Sir Kenny Dalglish: Celtic have Champions League hope but the bar is now too high for Gio’s Rangers

© Stuart Wallace/ShutterstockAllan McGregor saves from the spot but couldn't stop Rangers going down to defeat against Napoli
Allan McGregor saves from the spot but couldn't stop Rangers going down to defeat against Napoli

It’s now very difficult to see Rangers making the last 16 of the Champions League.

With no points from their opening two games against Ajax and Napoli – and seven goals conceded – it’s looking like it’s going to be third place for them in the group, at best.

But they won’t give in, and there may well be twists and turns to come.

As they have shown in the past two or three years, they are capable of getting big results in Europe.

They now face Liverpool back-to-back, with Jurgen Klopp’s side also needing points.

So the Light Blues will have to produce something extraordinary to get something from Anfield on October 4 – but Liverpool rarely lose on their own turf.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst would have taken some comfort from the performance in the opening 45 minutes against the Italians in midweek.

Compared to what they produced in Amsterdam the previous week, it was night and day.

That said, the Champions League is an unforgiving environment, and there is still plenty of room for improvement from many Rangers players.

I felt a bit for the Ibrox club when James Sands was sent off. Yes, it was a penalty, but I didn’t think a second yellow card for the American, and consequently the red, was necessary.

However, Spanish referee, Antonio Mateu Lahoz, is never far from controversy, and it didn’t surprise me in the slightest he sent James off.

A man down, Rangers were then staring defeat in the face, and it was soon game, set and match for Napoli.

Before that, Allan McGregor produced two penalty saves. He was first-class again andat 40, he shows no signs of winding down.

It’s up to Giovanni if he reinstates Jon McLaughlin when he is fit again, but it’s hard to see Allan losing the jersey any time soon.

What might not be as straightforward to work out is who will get the nod to play alongside Connor Goldson against Liverpool.

With Sands suspended, there is a gap to be filled. Will it be Ben Davies, Leon King, John Souttar or John Lundstram?

For various reasons, Davies and Souttar have hardly featured since they joined in the summer. King is just a kid, but he shows plenty of promise.

Lundstram can play at the back, but Giovanni seems to use him there only when playing with a back three.

So it’s a massive call for the Rangers manager, and he has to get it right because they’ll be up against Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, Jota and Luis Diaz.

Any mistakes are likely to be punished.

At Champions League level, you need to both defend superbly well and take your chances when you create them.

Celtic found that out at home to Real Madrid, and again against Shakhtar Donetsk.

It was good for them to get a point in Warsaw, but they deserved to win.

Daizen Maeda and Giorgos Giakoumakis missed glorious second-half chances, and it was no surprise the overriding feeling for Ange Postecoglou at full-time was frustration.

But he was also very proud of his players, and rightly so. They were superb, and showed they belong playing at this level.

The energy Ange’s players produced was second to none. Shakhtar were hanging on at the end, and delighted to get away with a draw.

It just goes to show that anyone who thinks Celtic run out of steam in the final 25 minutes of games is talking nonsense.

Part of the reason they don’t is that Ange uses his bench very well. He has quality subs, and they are pretty much like-for-like for the guys they are replacing.

Celtic now have back-to-back fixtures against RB Leipzig, which could be pivotal.

It’s clear the Scottish champions set out to win every game – regardless of the level of opposition and venue – and Ange will fancy maximum points.

But if they can get four points against the Germans, they will be in a very good place to finish second in their group.

There is a real cohesion and confidence at Celtic right now.

That’s why I believe they are in with a good chance of doing well in their remaining fixtures, and being in the Champions League after Christmas.