Pedro Mendes, the former Rangers midfielder, says his old team could not be playing Sporting Braga at a worse time after the Portuguese side recorded their eighth victory in nine games in beating Liga NOS leaders Benfica 1-0 at the weekend.

Braga have been one of the headline stories in Portugal since the turn of the year following the appointment of Ruben Amorim as head coach as a replacement for Ricardo Sa Pinto and Mendes, now an agent in his homeland, has been an interested observer.

He thinks Rangers will have their work cut out against a free-flowing side which is on a run that has accounted for traditional Portuguese heavyweights Porto, Benfica and Sporting Club in the league. Amorim also oversaw victory in the final of the Taca de Liga – the Portuguese League Cup – with another win over Porto and Mendes believes Rangers, who have slumped in the SPFL Premiership title race in recent weeks, are encountering a team who have designs on going all the way in the Europa League.


“To be fair, it is not the best time for Rangers to play against Braga because Braga are flying,” he said. “Rangers are not at their best. I saw Rangers against Porto and I was really positive about the way they played, the way they approached the game, home and away. Rangers were a very confident team, taking passes, keeping possession and taking shots. Even in the Estadio do Dragao, it was a fantastic performance in the second half.

“At Ibrox against Porto again [it was a] fantastic performance in the second half and then [there was] a fantastic win against Celtic and then suddenly, and I can't see any reason, the level dropped. And you see at the other end of the pitch, one team that doesn't lose for two months, winning against the top opponents in Portugal, Porto, Benfica, Sporting, and they honestly think they are here to have a say in this competition and I honestly think they will have something to say.”

Nevertheless, Mendes said Rangers fans could take succour from those previous performances against Porto when they held them to a 1-1 draw in the Estadio do Dragao before an impressive 2-0 win at Ibrox in the return fixture, pointing out that he expected Steven Gerrard's side to struggle prior to those games.

“I said exactly the same things when Rangers played Porto and Rangers were terrific against Porto. It's one thing looking at league games and another thing in Europa League and Champions League games. It's a different atmosphere, it's a different environment, different players, everything is different so, you know, let's see if Rangers come up with a different approach to the game than we have seen for the last three or four games in the league.”