THE road to 56 started at Ibrox on Saturday. Once again, Rangers didn’t stumble as Steven Gerrard’s side got their Premiership title defence off to a comfortable start.

A 3-0 win over Livingston was about as much as Gerrard could have asked for and goals from Ianis Hagi, Scott Wright and Kemar Roofe ensured the champions picked up where they left off with three points and a clean sheet.

The attention now turns to Europe for Gerrard and his players and the trip to Malmo tomorrow night will shape their Champions League ambitions. Here are five talking points ahead of the third qualifying round clash.


When Hagi fired Rangers ahead inside eight minutes – the Romanian finishing with a class and composure at the back post – it looked like it would be a long afternoon for Livingston.

Rangers would fail to capitalise on their bright start, however, and it took until Wright scored 12 minutes from time for the points to be secured.

David Martindale, the Livingston manager, felt the third from Roofe added a shine to the scoreline that Rangers didn’t really deserve. That point can be debated.

What can’t be argued, though, is that the champions were uncharacteristically flat for a large period. It wasn’t a major issue that would overly irk Gerrard, but he was right to point it out and the drop off would frustrate staff and supporters alike.

It just didn’t quite click as expected for Rangers at times in the final third but that speaks to the standards that have been set. There is clearly more to come from the Ibrox attack.


Managers will only be able to make three substitutions this season rather than the five that they had available last term and that is going to lead to some difficult decisions for Gerrard.

Wright, Roofe and John Lundstram came off the bench on Saturday but there was no action for the likes of Nathan Patterson or Cedric Itten. Allan McGregor, Filip Helander, Borna Barisic and Scott Arfield were rested, while Ryan Jack has yet to return from injury and Alfredo Morelos was in quarantine.

If Gerrard had fielded an eleven made up of players that weren’t stripped against Livingston, that side would still have been more than capable of going out and getting the job done just as comfortably.

Picking a team is hard enough right now for Gerrard. Selecting a squad and those who get off the bench isn’t exactly easy either.


The chance to impress may not have arrived how he would have wanted it to after the injury to Hagi, but the former Aberdeen forward certainly made the most of it when given the opportunity.

Wright had seen Hagi start impressively and open the scoring but he would get his name on the scoresheet at the end of another bright showing that saw him stake a claim for a start in the Champions League.

The finish with the outside of his boot was a touch of class from Wright and he needs to add more to his game in terms of goals and assists if he is to be a regular feature this term.

Given the way he has come on in his first months at Ibrox, the 23-year-old is clearly capable of doing just that. An understated January signing, he could be a main man in his first full campaign at Ibrox.


It would silly to suggest that the Premiership title race is going to be of the one horse variety this season after just one round of fixtures.

Celtic are already playing catch up on the park and in the standings, though, and there is a reason why Rangers are such heavy favourites to retain their title.

These opening weeks of the campaign do offer Gerrard’s side an opportunity to build some momentum and establish themselves and Rangers must take advantage whilst their Old Firm rivals are in a state of flux.

The Ibrox squad is the strongest in Scotland by some considerable distance at present and the main questions over Rangers right now concern their mentality and their drive.

Given how relentless they were last term, supporters should have no fears over either factor and this ruthless side won’t let their standards drop this term. That is ominous for the rest of the Premiership, and Celtic in particular.


The result was the most important factor for Rangers on Saturday but there were positives to be taken from aspects of the performance as Gerrard’s side eased to victory. He will demand more next time out, though.

The manner in which Rangers handled the switch between their title charge and their European endeavours last term was hugely impressive and that must be the case this time around as well.

A return to the Champions League is a moment to savour for everyone associated with Rangers and Gerrard and his players will be eager to make the most of the opportunity that is a reward for their sterling efforts as 55 was won.

The group stages are not outwith Rangers’ reach in the coming weeks. As always, the focus will be on one game at a time as Gerrard’s side look to bring a positive result back to Glasgow on Tuesday evening.