The Rangers fans know how to blow away the big guns and I still think Braga are next – Barry Ferguson – Barry Ferguson

There was nothing to brag about in Portugal but I still think Rangers will have plenty to say for themselves come next week’s second leg.

In an ideal world you’re coming back with at least a draw.

But even though my old side are trailing 1-0, I remain fully confident they’ll get the win that takes them into the semi-finals.

Look, Braga are a decent outfit and Carlos Carvalhal has got some good players.

Ricardo Horta was lively, as was Iuri Medeiros out on the right wing. Listen, bad teams don’t make it to the last eight of a European competition.

But I stand by what I said when the draw was made, they’re a good team but not a top team.

And they proved that they themselves with the way they went about things in the second half.

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When a proper top-class outfit get themselves ahead, they go chasing the second and then a third to kill the tie stone dead at the earliest opportunity.

But Braga seemed content to settle for taking a one-goal advantage to Ibrox and that tells me they have concerns of their own.

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I watched their game against Benfica last week and while they did well to beat one of Portugal’s biggest teams by the odd goal in five, there were plenty of examples where their own defense looked vulnerable.

It might have been a different story had Rangers taken one of their big opportunities in the first half.

I felt we started the first half quite well, we were on top and creating chances – but when Horta hit the post right before his brother Andre had a goal ruled by VAR, you could see a bit of nerves creeping in to the Rangers ranks.

Fashion Sakala had a massive chance with the game goalless when Ryan Jack slipped him in.

He did everything right with his first touch but for me, he has to at least hit the target instead of smashing it over the bar like he did.

Up front is obviously the big concern for Gio van Bronckhorst right now with Alfredo Morelos being out.

Rangers Alfredo Morelos is out for the rest of the season

The fans will still be hurting over losing the Colombian for the rest of the season but the gaffer is right, there’s no point crying about the fact he’s no longer available because there’s still three trophies up for grabs – although the league will be a big ask now after last week’s result against Celtic.

The fact is, his side needs to find a way to work without their talisman.

Gio tried Kemar Roofe there in the Old Firm without much joy and then switched to Sakala for Thursday night.

Again it didn’t really work, with the Zambian unable to hold on to the ball outside the box and unconvincing when he had sight of goal inside it.

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I suspect Gio will go back to Roofe for the return at Ibrox but Rangers need to come up with a plan that allows them to adapt to his strengths, rather than asking Roofe to change his game and play like Morelos.

That’s impossible because Morelos is capable of occupying the attention of two or three defenders on his own.

He’s almost the perfect lone frontman because he’s a master at bullying centre-backs.

But Roofe is a different player.

When he’s on form he can be a top operator for this team but for me, he looks rusty and badly in need of a run of games.

That’s a tricky situation for the former Leeds and Anderlecht ace because we all know he’s had fitness issues which limit how many games he can string together.

But if he can play his way back into a bit of form then I believe he can still be the guy to shoot Rangers into the last four.

It’s important if Rangers are going to stick by Kemar that they make sure they play to his strengths.

Against both Celtic and Braga, the strikers both became a bit isolated but if you can get bodies up and around Roofe, he’s clever enough to find the runners in behind.

Next week, Rangers will likely have loads of the ball but they can’t get sucked into making the same mistakes they did against Celtic, just firing cross after cross into the penalty area without doing enough to stretch the opposition’s defense first of all.

And they simply can’t make the kind of mistakes they did at the back in Portugal.

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Last season this side were rock solid at the back but there’s been a few cases this season where they’ve conceded some really shoddy goals.

It was a bad mistake from Leon Balogun to let in Abel Ruiz but those things happen unfortunately.

For me, Gio deserves credit for identifying what was going wrong and making the change at the break.

Pushing John Lundstram back into defense helped steady the ship and the three subs he made just after the hour mark provided some fresh energy and it was actually us who finished the game stronger.

Braga have a young squad and they’re now going to get a real education in what it’s like to face one of Europe’s most hostile environments.

The Govan crowd have already helped their team blow away Borussia Dortmund and Red Star Belgrade and I really do think Braga will be next.

Carvalhal was at Ibrox last week for the Old Firm game so he will know what is coming.

But knowing what’s about to hit you and being able to deal with it are two different things and Ibrox can be a special place on these European nights under the lights with 50,000 punters going nuts.

Braga found that out to their cost last time out and if the Rangers support can put on a show like they did back in 2020, I see no reason why Rangers won’t be roaring into the semis.

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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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