Former Rangers striker Kris Boyd reacts to Europa League draw as S.C. Braga profiled
Ex-Rangers striker Kris Boyd believes his old side have a major chance of reaching the Europa League semi-finals if Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s key players perform to the level they have reached in the competition to date.
The Ibrox club were pitted against familiar opposition in the shape of Sporting Braga in the quarter-finals during Friday’s draw in Nyon, two years on from their previous meeting in the Round of 32.
The Light Blues ran out 4-2 aggregate winners against the Portuguese outfit on that occasion and Boyd reckons the Gers can repeat the feat providing the likes of star performers Ryan Kent, James Tavernier and Alfredo Morelos step up on the big stage once again.
He said: “It’s a fantastic draw for Rangers when you look at the other teams that were in the hat. It could’ve been a lot worse, that’s for sure.
“It’s another great opportunity for Rangers to get to a semi-final, they beat Braga home and away two seasons ago in the same competition, but it will be two very difficult games.
“They’ve been knocked out at the last-16 stage for the past two seasons, so they’ve already gone one step further this season.
“When you you look at the teams still left in the draw and even in the Champions League - Villareal are the holders of this competition and they’re in the last eight of the Champions League now so it shows you the strength of this competition.
“When you get to the latter stage of European competitions you need a little bit of luck but you also need your big players to perform and Rangers have done that so far this season - Goldson, Tavernier, Kent Morelos.
“Allan McGregor was unbelievable over the two legs (against Red Star Belgrade). Given his age it’s brilliant for him to still be playing at this level.
“I’ve not seen a lot of Braga but Giovanni (van Bronckhorst) will be looking to those big players again if they’re to progress to the semi-finals.”
Rangers knocked out Red Star Belgrade over two legs to advance in the competition and all but confirm the winners of the Scottish Premiership are guaranteed direct access to the group stages of the Champions League for the next TWO seasons.
Scotland had been battling with Serbia and Russia for ninth spot in the UEFA co-efficient table, but with the latter nation currently suspended due to the ongoing war in Ukraine and both remaining Serbian clubs exiting Europe last night, it moved the Scots up to 35.5 points.
Van Bronckhorst’s men guaranteed another £1.5million cash bonus from UEFA, with increased income from TV rights and gate receipts from the quarter-final tie.
Boyd added: “It’s great for Scottish football as a whole. People often take cheap shots at Scottish football worldwide, but this shows you that we’ve got some very talented footballers here and we’ve got some strong teams.
“Braga have done unbelievably to get here. It’s a similar story to Rangers, they beat Red Star Belgrade over two legs and Braga finished runners-up behind them during the group stages, so they’re a good team.
“You’ve got to give credit to both managers, (Carlos) Carvalhal and (Giovanni) van Bronckhorst. To reach this stage of the competition with the budgets they’ve got is great credit to the way they organise their teams.”
Many Rangers supporters had hoped for a two-legged Battle of Britain showdown with West Ham United but Boyd admits his former club should be happier they dodged competitions favourites Barcelona.
The Sky Sports pundit admitted: “West Ham would’ve been the glamour tie, especially for the British public but the teams you really wanted to avoid were Barcelona, who will now be the favourites to win the tournament, and Atalanta who were playing in the Champions League as well.
“West Ham have done fantastic but they’ll have a very tough game against Lyon. As proven against Rangers in the group stages earlier this season they’ve got some talented players.
“It would’ve been great to see an all-British tie but it wasn’t to be. We can still live in hope that it could be in the final but both Rangers and West Ham will need to perform well above the standard they’ve been used to domestically if they’re to reach the final.
“Rangers performed really, really well against Borussia Dortmund and I think since then domestically they’ve taken a little hit from that. It’s demanding on the players but they will all say they want to play at this level.”
SPORTING BRAGA - FACTFILE
Nickname: Os Arcebispos (The Archbishops), Os Arsenalistas (The Arsenalists)
Ground: Estadio Municipal de Braga (30,360)
President: António Salvador
Manager: Carlos Carvalhal (Ex-Swansea City and Sheffield Wednesday)
Honours: Portuguese Cup x3 (Taca de Portugal), Portuguese League Cup x2 (Taca de Liga), UEFA Intertoto Cup 2008, Europa League runners-up 2011
Key Player: Ricardo Horta - Top scorer this season with 15 goals in 23 league appearances. Plays as a right-winger
Interesting Fact: Braga changed their kit from green to red and white after the war due to their president’s business interests in London and a trip to watch Arsenal