Philippe Clement welcomes hectic Rangers schedule ahead of Benfica tie

The manager insisted he won't prioritise one competition over another.

Philippe Clement revealed Rangers directors once suggested he prioritise domestic football over European aspirations as the Belgian boss prepared for the Europa League clash against Benfica.

The Ibrox squad arrived in Lisbon for the first leg of their last-16 tie on Thursday amid a busy fixture schedule.

Clement took over from Michael Beale in October and had to beat Real Betis in their final Europa League group game in Spain in December before the Viaplay Cup final against Aberdeen at Hampden Park.

The Gers beat Real Betis 3-2 to qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League and beat the Dons 1-0 to win the first trophy of the season.

Rangers are two points ahead of Celtic at the top of the cinch Premiership with a Scottish Cup tie against Hibernian to return to on Sunday, but Clement insists European football is not a distraction.

He said: “No. I said that in December when there were some people on the board before our European game that it was maybe more important to win the League Cup.

“No (surprise) because it was with good intentions. The hunger to win a trophy again was so big in the club that everybody wanted to put emphasis on that.

“But after our night in Spain they were also really happy and after winning the League Cup they were even more happy.

“I told them I never work that way. I want players hungry for every occasion who want to win every occasion.

“It doesn’t work that way. It’s not like a menu in a restaurant that you pick up. Like that, you don’t create a winning culture.

“So, OK, it’s a busy schedule, that’s true. But it’s about us working really hard with the players and the staff to get the players ready and also the players themselves showing that they are ready for that kind of competition.

‘We are going to full for this game, full at the weekend and go full until the end of the season.”

Clement has an injury crisis with wingers Abdallah Sima, Rabbi Matondo, Scott Wright and Oscar Cortes out – albeit the latter is not in Rangers European squad – while Ross McCausland is a doubt after being taken off with a knock in the 2-1 defeat by Motherwell at the weekend.

However, the former Monaco boss insists he will not be “parking the bus”.

“We are missing four wingers tomorrow,” he said. “Ross maybe also, we will see. He did the warm-up today and didn’t train with the team he did individual work. We will see tomorrow if he is available to play some minutes or not.

“The other four wingers are out. I have five wingers and maybe five of them will be out. That’s a bad situation.

“We miss two playmakers with Kieran Dowell and Todd Cantwell and one striker with Danilo. So that is a lot of offensive quality that we miss tomorrow. It’s about finding other solutions.

“It’s a challenge and as a coach you need to see if you stick with the same system or do you change?

“I had to think about that with my staff. What to do in this situation and against an opponent like Benfica. How to play.

“I don’t believe in parking the bus and only defending – I have never done that.

“Whether it was with smaller teams playing in Madrid or Paris against PSG or playing in Leipzig with Club Brugge – we always attacked to win games.

“I don’t think that if you have a culture of that and I am working on it every day to create chances to score goals, that for one game you do the total opposite.

“The moment you get a goal against you kill the minds of your players.

“So we will always fight to create chances, like we did in Spain when we defended really well and attacked also.

“So it’s going to be the same here. We need to defend really well and show a lot of qualities that way.”Show less

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