Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst has said reaching the Champions League group stages has to be the club’s target every year, as he prepares to face PSV in the play-off round of the competition.
The Ibrox side go up against their Dutch opposition knowing that the winner will progress to play against Europe’s elite, and bank around £40m, while the loser will drop into the Europa League group stage.
While Van Bronckhorst and his players enjoyed their memorable run to the final of the Europa League last season and played in some thrilling games, he said that top level competition is where his side have to be.
“I obviously coached before in the Champions League,” the Rangers boss said. “It is a tournament you want to be involved in as a player, as a club, as a coach.
“It’s one of the best tournaments in club football in the world.
“I came here and wanted to give this club prizes and wanted to play again at the highest level and that is Champions League.
“The main thing for me is to qualify and to bring the club back into the biggest stage in European football.”
Standing in Rangers’ way is a PSV side managed by Van Bronckhorst’s former Netherland teammate Ruud van Nistelrooy. The Eredivisie giants were 4-3 winners over Monaco in the previous qualifying round and count the likes of former Barcelona striker Luuk de Jong and Dutch international winger Cody Gakpo in their ranks.
“PSV had a great game against Monaco to reach this stage,” Van Bronckhorst said. “The desire PSV will have to reach the group stages is very similar. It is a big game for both clubs.
“I’m sure you will see a PSV and Rangers team giving it everything, it is set up for two great games.”
Rangers have enjoyed some special European nights at Ibrox over the past few years and have often delivered impressive second leg performances in front of their own fans. This time the home leg is first, but Van Bronckhorst doesn’t think that will be a major factor, nor does he think his side will feel any extra pressure given the size of the game.
“For me, it’s not more pressure,” he said. “In the end we prepare to win the game and for my players it is the same.
“Of course, the rewards after the tie are bigger, and that’s the pressure but we don’t have to take that into the game. You just concentrate on your strength and your ability to play well and overcome PSV in two games. That’s all we have to do.
“We played at home first against Red Star, the others last year we were first leg away. We won 3-0 at home.
“You always want to be in the tie or have an advantage when playing away second, that’s normal.
“So we have to be in good condition and on top of our game. The last tie against Union we were under par when we played away and we had to give everything to make sure we got through.
“Against PSV we have to be there for two games or we will struggle to go through because the differences now are so little.
“The support here is a big factor, it becomes even stronger and more hectic if the performance on the pitch is there. That is what we have to achieve.
“The fans are a big influence. If you play away from home and the support is really there, it’s a different environment.
“Every European match the atmosphere is there, I have no doubt in my mind tomorrow will be the same.”
Rangers will welcome Ryan Kent and James Sands back to the squad for the game at Ibrox after both missed the 4-0 Premiership win over St Johnstone on Saturday.
“We have everyone available for tomorrow,” Van Bronckhorst said.
“James Sands and Ryan Kent are back in the squad so we are looking forward to the challenge we face tomorrow.”