Many critics, and a lot of their own fans, are writing off Rangers’ chances ahead of their Europa League last-16 meeting with Bayer Leverkusen.
Light Blues legend Jorg Albertz, now back living in his homeland, knows both sides well.
And the German believes the tie is finely poised and rates his former club’s chances of progressing to the quarter-finals as an encouraging 50-50.
Given the past two results for Steven Gerrard’s side – bundled out of the Scottish Cup by Hearts at Tynecastle and humiliation at home against Hamilton Accies in midweek – that considered analysis may come as a surprise to the Rangers support.
But The Hammer has weighed up the Ibrox club’s European performances – in particular the two wins against Braga – against the form of Leverkusen, who he believes are just as unpredictable as their Scottish opponents.
Albertz told The Sunday Post: “First and foremost, this is a difficult tie for Rangers, but there should be no complaints from anyone about being in the last 16 of a European competition.
“Bayer Leverkusen are good. They have strength and experience.
“When Karim Bellarabi is on form, he is a fantastic player. He is very dangerous and Rangers must be very vigilant when it comes to him.
“They are also in a nice position in the Bundesliga.
“However, Rangers can beat them over the two legs. That is for sure.
“Leverkusen are similar to Rangers in terms of being inconsistent.
“They beat Borussia Dortmund and drew with Leipzig. But they will then drop points against teams they shouldn’t be dropping them against.
“From their point of view, that is where the frustration comes in.
“I’m certain there will be the same feelings at Rangers at this moment.
“So the tie really depends on which side can have their best team turn up on the night.
“If Leverkusen bring their ‘A game’, then they are a very good side. They would fancy their chances against most teams in such circumstances.
“But if they produce the other type of performance they are also capable of, then they could face some trouble.
“It will be the same for Rangers. The players – and the level of performance – against Braga in Portugal were both outstanding. But then they followed that up with a shocker away to Hearts.
“Take all of this into account, from both sides, and that’s why this tie is totally unpredictable.
“I’m not sitting on the fence, but I rate it at 50-50. I think it has the potential to be very, very close.
“But there is enough feeling in my heart to think Rangers can make it to the quarter-finals. It is not impossible.”
Albertz, now 49, will not be at Ibrox on Thursday night, but plans to be inside the BayArena for the return leg in Leverkusen the following Thursday evening.
The capacity is just over 30,000, but it is by no means certain that the home fans will take up their full allocation.
There is the potential for around 6,000 Rangers fans being allowed into the stadium, coronavirus permitting.
Albertz said: “I’ll try my best to be at the return. I live in Moenchengladbach, so it is not too far away.
“The atmosphere inside the stadium will be very good.
“I’m not sure how many Rangers will fans will make the journey. But I know they will be noisy and make themselves heard to support the team.”
Albertz was part of the club’s nine-in-a-row side, and the German is a hugely popular figure with the Rangers faithful.
Signed by Walter Smith in the summer of 1996, he spent five successful years at the club, and then returned to Hamburg when Dick Advocaat sold him.
He didn’t always enjoy a happy working relationship with the Dutch coach, but they did help the club achieve some memorable results and performances.
One was against Leverkusen back in 1998 when they won 2-1 in Germany in a UEFA Cup clash.
Albertz smiled: “I can’t believe that game was 22 years ago. My goodness, that reminds me of how old I am!
“To win in my home country gave me a very nice feeling.
“My family and friends were at the game, and that made it even more memorable because they didn’t get to see me playing live too often with Rangers.
“Gio van Bronckhorst gave us the lead, and Jonatan Johansson put us two up. We played very well on the night and deserved to win.
“The second leg at Ibrox finished 1-1, so it shows that wins can be achieved at any level away from home.
“Nothing is ever impossible and that is the outlook and mentality Steven Gerrard and his players must have in the coming days as they face four or five massive games.”
The next two league games are crucial. This afternoon away at Ross County, Rangers need to get a result to give them confidence before Thursday evening.
The level of performance will not be important, but showing quality at the right moments will be crucial to leave Dingwall with three points.
Next weekend, of course, Celtic visit Ibrox. Most would admit that nine-in-a-row is as good as in the bag for Neil Lennon and his squad.
But if the Gers can take nine points from their league games before the international break, then it may throw one or two question marks out there.
Some wins would also be welcome for Gerrard, and Albertz reasoned: “I don’t want to keep going back 20 or 25 years, but we knew how to win titles.
“Our view was that the four games against Celtic always took care of themselves, and we tended to win most of them.
“There were times, of course, that we lost and we had to deal with that and recover as quickly as possible.
“But we knew the importance of beating Kilmarnock, Motherwell, Dundee and Partick Thistle.
“It was also our little secret of getting to where we needed to arrive at.
“We never took those games for granted and never underestimated that winning that type of game went a long way to securing the league title.
“The current Rangers team need to show they are also capable of doing that.
“I think that Steven Gerrard is a good manager. Remember, he is still learning.
“This young man is trying his very best, every day of the week, and he deserves to be given as much time as possible.
“If the league is not won this year – and we know the odds are stacked against Rangers right now – then it will be all about stopping 10.
“That, we all know, means there is no margin for error.
“It will be an unforgiving time.”
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