The biggest battle facing Rangers at St Mirren as Europa League ‘transformation’ branded a puzzler

Gus MacPherson insists Rangers’ biggest battle will be mind games when they arrive in Paisley to face St Mirren.

The former Gers defender and ex-Buddies boss believes the mental switch that has transformed the Ibrox side in Europe could have a negative side as they play catch-up with Celtic in the league.

A 1-0 Europa League quarter-final loss at Braga in midweek has set-up a huge second leg on Thursday.

And the big games keep coming with a Scottish Cup semi-final showdown with Celtic at Hampden on Sunday.

But MacPherson is adamant his old club must focus on staying in the moment.

Gus MacPherson

He said: “The transformation in Rangers when they play in Europe is amazing compared to how they’ve been doing in domestic games.

“I don’t know the answer to why that is. Maybe it is a subconscious thing. It’s easy to motivate yourself and get yourself up for the big European games such as against Borussia Dortmund and Red Star Belgrade.

“It’s not like that when you play with either Rangers or Celtic – you need to be at it for every game.

“If it’s a subconscious thing then they’re quickly about to realize that the match against St Mirren is a massive game as well – it’s as big as anything they’ve been involved in this season.

“When you are a Rangers player every match matters.

“They will have the St Mirren game then the second leg against Braga on Thursday before the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic. These are all huge challenges which require complete focus.

“It doesn’t matter whether you play St Mirren, Livingston or Ross County, every game matters.

“Rangers can only concentrate on their own side of things and what will be will be. They need to go from game to game, Sunday, Thursday, Sunday then let’s see how the fixtures come out after the split.

“But to keep the title race alive they need to take the points in Paisley.”

Last weekend’s Old Firm defeat for Rangers has left little or no margin for error in their fading bid to retain their Premiership title.

But MacPherson is convinced Gio van Bronckhorst’s side can still enjoy a campaign with a silver lining.

He said: “Rangers need to make sure they get the three points at St Mirren but it’s not always possible. Every team have a slip-up and that’s when the next game becomes even more important.

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“I would suggest that the St Mirren match is the most important game for Rangers as it’s the next one.

“It’s a massive week ahead for them but that is life at Rangers.

“They may think they have an easier game coming up but that’s not the case.

“This is now the business end of the season and there’s still so much on offer.

“Every game takes on a new importance and their European run has been absolutely outstanding.

“I don’t think there were many people who gave them a chance against
Dortmund but, because of those two results (a 4-2 win in Germany and
a 2-2 draw at Ibrox) we saw everyone throughout Europe sit up and take notice.

“Then they knocked out Red Star and found themselves a game away from a Europa League semi-final. Getting the game back to Scotland with a one-goal deficit isn’t the worst result.

The Rangers players celebrate after reaching the Europa League quarter final

“The atmosphere generated at Ibrox on Thursday night will be unlike anything Braga have experienced before.

“It’s a different type of game but nobody at Rangers should be thinking about that occasion just yet.

“The game against St Mirren is the most important for now.”

During his St Mirren reign, MacPherson led the Buddies to promotion to the top-flight in season 2005-06 as well as landing a Scottish Challenge Cup.

He’s in no doubt about what’s at stake this lunchtime for two teams with which he holds huge affection.

He said: “If you take the game in isolation then it’s two polar opposite situations for the clubs.

“St Mirren’s situation has altered dramatically, from battling for a top-six place to being in 10th place, after the last three or four games.

“The new manager Stephen Robinson has already come out and said some of the players have had their heads turned.

“It’s like a reset button –everyone at the club needs to refocus as they are now looking at a relegation battle, that’s their side of it.

“That reset button also needs to be hit by Rangers – two clubs with hugely
different targets but their need to win the game is exactly the same. Gers know they must get the points if they are to maintain a title
challenge to Celtic.

“For different reasons you have two clubs who need to get a result and for
St Mirren they need to take something from the game.

“It’s a similar situation they found themselves in when they were going through a sticky patch in December.

“They managed to claim a 0-0 draw at home to Celtic at the end of the month that started a run when they built up a bit of momentum (wins over Dundee United, Aberdeen, Hibs and St Johnstone and draws with Livi and Motherwell ).

“They also had an issue with Covid that saw a number of younger players have to step up to the plate.

“If you offered Robinson a 0-0 draw just now then I’m sure he’d take it.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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