AS we enter the final days of 2020, it is a question that is being asked, by increasingly desperate Celtic fans as much as by concerned Rangers supporters, more and more.

Will the Ibrox club be able to avoid the calamitous collapses which have ended their Scottish title bids in the second half of the last two seasons in the months ahead?

Steven Gerrard’s charges were in strong positions in the Premiership at this stage in both the 2018/19 and 2019/20 campaigns and hopes were high among their ever-optimistic followers they could maintain their challenges and depose their city rivals as champions.

They have, though, suffered from serious bouts of the post-New Year blues each term, dropped points home and away to lesser opposition and finished well off top spot.

Rangers’ form has been nothing short of staggering since August – the 2-1 win over Dundee United at Tannadice yesterday extended their unbeaten run to 27 matches – and their lead in the top flight is considerable.

It will be fascinating to find out if they have learned from their previous mistakes and can get it over the line this time out.

But it will be every bit as interesting to see how far James Tavernier and his team mates fare in Europe in 2021.

There has been so much hype and hysteria about 10-In-A-Row – about whether Celtic can make history and whether Rangers can stop them - since competitive football resumed in this country back in August that it has kind of overshadowed events elsewhere.

The parochialism of the game here shouldn’t be allowed to attract from the Govan club’s success in the Europa League. What they have achieved has been nothing short of remarkable.

Scottish sides have enjoyed some memorable moments in continental competition in recent years. Indeed, just last season Celtic beat Lazio home and away and Rangers defeated Braga in both legs as they reached the last 16.

In the not too distant past, too, the Ibrox outfit got to the UEFA Cup final and their Parkhead rivals made it through to the Champions League knockout rounds with a famous victory over Barcelona.

However, this Rangers side has topped Group D, winning four and drawing two of their six matches and racking up a record points total, playing attractive and intelligent attacking football that has been a delight to watch.

They didn’t park the bus, soak up pressure, ride their luck and then seek to snatch a goal on the counter attack - a negative game plan that so many teams from these shores have adopted whenever they have faced quality foreign opposition in years gone by – when they took on Benfica, Lech Poznan and Standard Liege.

They have, by and large, been organised and watertight at the back, comfortable in possession and hard-working in midfield and creative and ruthless up front.

You now expect a club that didn’t play a single European tie for five seasons between 2011 and 2017 to win, and do so in some style, whenever they take to the field.

Bayer Leverkusen proved too good for Rangers last season and won their Europa League last 16 double header by a comfortable 4-1 scoreline. But they have improved since then. Leon Balogun has come in and strengthened their backline, Glen Kamara has matured into an exceptional talent and Kemar Roofe has added an extra dimension to their attacking play.

They could find themselves pitted against Dynamo Kiev, Lille, Olympiakos, Real Sociedad, Red Bull Salzburg or Slavia Prague in the last 32 draw this afternoon. If they progress, AC Milan, Arsenal, Lecester City, Manchester United, Napoli, Roma or Spurs may await. But they would fear no foe given how well they have acquitted themselves to date.

It will be hard for Gerrard to negotiate the Betfred Cup, Europa League, Premiership and Scottish Cup games that his men have in the weeks ahead and avoid any slip-ups. Injuries will be suffered and suspensions picked up. But the Falkirk and Lech Loznan matches in the past fortnight have shown he has the strength in depth to safely negotiate a hectic schedule.

In Poland on Thursday night he rested Allan McGregor, Tavernier, Steven Davis, Alfredo Morelos, Roofe and Ryan Kent and drafted in Jon McLaughlin, Nathan Patterson, Bongani Zungu, Cedric Itten, Ianis Hagi and Joe Aribo. There was no dip in standards as the visitors eased to a comfortable 2-0 win.

Walter Smith knew that winning the Scottish title was the most important challenge he faced at the start of each and every season and his Rangers teams did so more often than not. It is why he flourished during his two spells in charge at Ibrox. Gerrard must, above all else, lift the Premiership trophy come May after two disappointing trophyless campaigns. It is looking good at the moment.

Yet, the Liverpool great, a former Champions League winner, has the quality, resources, ambition and experience to reach the latter stages of the Europa League as well and will be every bit as determined to do so.

Should Rangers get a few fans back into their stadium it will simply increase their chances.