Rangers defeat to Napoli in the Champions League on Wednesday not only added to a miserable run of results in the competition this year, it put the club in danger of an unwanted tournament record.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst and his players have already had their weaknesses exposed against top quality opposition in the competition, but they will now go into their final match knowing that they could go down in history as having the worst group-stage record in history.
Five defeats from five games means that a loss against Ajax at Ibrox would leave Rangers without a point to show from their campaign. If they were to lose by more than one goal, the scale of defeat would be unprecedented.
As miserable as a return of six defeats would be, it’s not uncommon in the competition. Twenty teams have suffered the indignity of finishing with a zero in the points column since Fenerbahce became the first to record that distinction back in 2001-02.
Among the sides that have exited their groups thoroughly defeated, there are, however, degrees of separation. Goal difference over the six games can tell a story of its own and there’s a huge variety among the teams
Maccabi Haifa lost all six matches in 2009-10, but only had a goal difference of minus eight, as did Romanian minnows Otelul Galati in 2011-12. Otelul conceded 11 goals in their games against Manchester United, Benfica and Basel, but their fans did get to celebrate three goals.
At the other end of the scale are Spartak Moscow, who ended up on minus 17 in 2002-03, and the current record holders Dinamo Zagreb.
Dinamo Zagreb and the worst campaign so far
Dinamo had a campaign to forget in 2011-12. Drawn against Real Madrid, Lyon and Ajax, the Croatian side undoubtedly adjusted their expectations accordingly.
After losing 1-0 at home to Real and 2-0 away to Lyon in their opening two games, Dinamo were bottom of the group but not without some hope. A 2-0 home defeat to Ajax, with former Celtic winger Derk Boerrigter on the scoresheet, left them with an uphill task at the halfway stage but little idea of what was to come.
Ajax thumped Dinamo 4-0 in the return and that defeat was followed by a 6-2 thumping in Madrid and then the embarrassment of a 7-1 home defeat to Lyon, for whom Bafetimbi Gomis helped himself to four goals.
Played six, lost six. Scored three, conceded 22. A new, and still standing, Champions League record of zero points and a minus 19 goal difference.
Rangers’ record so far
Played five, lost five. Scored one, conceded 19. Zero points and a minus 18 goal difference.
After beating PSV Eindhoven in the play-off to reach the group stages, Rangers played another Dutch side in their opening game, but the result wasn’t as hoped for. A chastening 4-0 defeat was a clear message that there was a step up in quality and mistakes wouldn’t go unpunished.
Ibrox was a hard place for any visiting side in Europe last season, but the first home game brought no joy. Napoli turned in a professional performance to win 3-0 and take three points, leaving Rangers with a double-header against Liverpool to look forward to.
At Anfield, van Bronckhorst’s side looked more solid, losing 2-0 to a penalty and a set-piece goal. The return match in Glasgow was a different story.
After Scott Arfield opened the scoring, netting Rangers’ first goal in the group, Liverpool responded and then some.
Roberto Firmino scored twice and Mohamed Salah hit a hat-trick as the Reds ran riot, consigning Rangers to another defeat and adding a big number to the goal difference.
The clinical way in which Rangers were opened up that night sparked fears of a repeat in Naples, but Napoli helped themselves to just three goals at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
It leaves Rangers’ record perilously close to a record they want to avoid, and it will all come down to the match against Ajax. A win would restore some pride after a tough campaign, a significant defeat could see the whole experience end up in the history books.
There is one other small consolation though. Even if things don’t go to plan next week, events elsewhere could mean not just avoiding the all-time record, but not even being the worst this season.
Over in Group C Viktoria Plzen are pointless after five games and have a goal difference of -17. Their final group game? At home to Barcelona.
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