FORMER Benfica manager Graeme Souness believes Rangers are facing his old club at the best possible time - and suspects the Portuguese champions will be “nervy” in their Europa League last 16 encounter on Thursday night.

The Estadio da Luz club where thrashed 5-0 by their fierce rivals Porto in a Primera Liga match in the Estadio do Dragao on Sunday after having their Argentinian captain Nicolas Otamendi ordered off.

Souness, who was speaking at a Viaplay media event at Hampden yesterday to promote the satellite broadcaster’s coverage of the Scottish Cup quarter-finals, spent two seasons in charge of the Lisbon giants in the 1990s and knows their supporters will be livid about the heavy loss.

He is optimistic Philippe Clement’s team can get a positive result against Roger Schmidt’s shellshocked side if they perform as well as they did in their group stage triumph over Real Betis in Spain back in December.

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“They are playing against a team that is under pressure,” he said. “Have you seen their last two results? The week before losing to Porto they lost to Sporting. I know a wee bit about that.  

 “The Rangers and Celtic in Portuguese football are Porto and Benfica, so they have taken a historical smack. The pressure will be on those players. It might be a good time to play them. 

“They will be a nervy lot. It’s like Rangers losing 5-0 to Celtic. You can imagine what the crowd would be like. The Benfica supporters are like Rangers supporters, like Liverpool supporters or Galatasaray supporters. They’re just mad passionate about their football team.”

Souness added: “When Benfica play away from home there’s only two games a season when they don’t have the majority of supporters - away to Porto and Sporting.

“It’s a giant of a football club. There are about 10 million people who live in Portugal and five million of them are Benfica supporters. So wherever Benfica go they have the majority of support. It’s a fantastic football club with a great European history.”

“But just look back to what happened this year when Rangers went to Real Betis and got a result. That’s what Benfica will be talking about. They will be saying, ‘This is a team that can go away from home and take a result’. They will be assuming it will be a very well organised Rangers side that are capable of taking that result.  

“Benfica have to get back on their horse. Confidence is a great thing in football. Some people need a lot of it, some people don’t need too much of it. And right now Benfica will be damaged because of that result at the weekend against historically their biggest rivals. They’ll be hurting. 

“So it’s going to be one of two Benficas that Rangers face. A really angry, full-on Benfica that have parked that result. Or a Benfica that’s feeling sorry for themselves. And we won’t know which one until the night.

“It is just a typical European game away from home for Rangers. Do nothing daft in the early stages, no wild challenges, don’t give any goals away, don’t get their crowd excited by doing anything daft like emptying a couple of them and putting them over the touchline. Just usual tactics.”

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Meanwhile, Souness, who lifted the European Cup three times during the six-and-a-half seasons that he spent as a player at Liverpool, has dismissed fears that progressing further in Europe could damage Rangers’ chances of winning the Scottish title. 

“Not at all,” he said. “What would you rather be doing? Concentrating on just one or everything? You get more and more confidence and when you are winning games you want to be playing two or three times a week.

“No, their tails are up. They are playing with great confidence. Okay, they lost a game at the weekend, but it is a game they should have won. That’s the kind of game we have all been involved in.”

Graeme Souness was promoting Viaplay’s live and exclusive coverage of Hibernian v Rangers on Sunday. Viaplay is available to stream from or via your TV provider on Sky, Virgin TV and Amazon Prime as an add-on subscription.