AS a three-time winner of Europe’s premier club competition during his acclaimed playing days, Sir Kenny Dalglish has a fair idea of the levels of excellence which have to be attained on the park to lift the Champions League.

As a non-executive director of Liverpool, who have reached three finals in the past five seasons and lifted the continental game’s greatest prize for a sixth occasion back in 2019, he is acutely aware of how much investment is required off it to prevail.

So Sir Kenny could not understand the outcry after Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst stated that “hundreds of millions” of pounds are needed to compete last month.

There was outrage when the Dutchman made his remarks in the wake of a heavy 4-0 defeat to Ajax - opponents who had lavished just shy of €100m on new recruits during the summer - in their opening group game in the Johan Cruyff Arena at the start of last month.

But Dalglish agrees with the former Champions League winner. "That's what I said at the outset,” he said at the Scottish FA grassroots awards presented by McDonald’s at Hampden. “It is not outrageous to think you are not going to win is it? It is just a fact of life. You have stepped in with the big boys.”

The National: PRPR (Image: PR)

Yet, the Glaswegian, a boyhood Rangers fans who signed for Celtic as a kid and went on to be an all-time Parkhead great, will not rule out the Ibrox club producing an upset and getting a result against Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday evening.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are, despite the indifferent form they have produced at times in the 2022/23 campaign, widely expected to overcome Van Bronckhorst’s team easily on Merseyside and take a step towards the knockout rounds.

Having been on the receiving end of a 4-1 drubbing by Partick Thistle in the League Cup final at Hampden in 1971, though, Dalglish knows far better than to take any result for granted.  

 “It is definitely a step up to what Rangers have been used to,” said Dalglish. “It is the top competition isn’t it? It is probably the top competition in football. For them to go in against the top teams is tough.

“But they are better off being there and competing than getting knocked out in the play-offs. It is the first year in a while that they have been in. That is progress in itself. If they can get themselves a couple of positive results then obviously that will not do them any harm. 

“I think they knew what to expect. How you deal with it is a different thing. It is a big ask. But that is not to say they can't compete, that is not to say they won't get a result. In a one-off game you can always get an upset. There is nothing that is a formality.”

Dalglish watched Rangers play Napoli in their second Group A match in Govan last month and felt, despite the 3-0 reverse they were on the receiving end of, they acquitted themselves well against Serie A rivals who had beaten Liverpool 4-1 over in Italy the previous week.

He believes James Tavernier and his team mates can - despite being bottom of their section without any points after two games, despite conceding seven goals and despite not scoring once - give a decent account of themselves on Merseyside and surprise a few people if they reproduce that display. 

“Rangers got a rude awakening in their first game against a good Ajax side,” he said. “But Ajax played very well at Anfield (it took a Joel Matip goal with a minute remaining for Liverpool to win 2-1).

“In the game against Napoli at Ibrox they got two penalty decisions given against them and were on the wrong end of some 50-50 decisions. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened in the game against Napoli if the decisions hadn’t gone against them. It is hypothetical, but they might have come away with something.

“Nobody likes to lose, but you have still got to assess who you are playing against and what level you are at. Rangers haven’t done that badly, although obviously they would have liked to have done a lot better.”

Dalglish added: “It is a hard shout for Rangers to go in against Liverpool. But it is a hard shout for Liverpool as well to go in against Rangers. They have lost two games, but they have still done not too badly.

“Liverpool is a difficult game for them. It will be good to see it. You just have to do as well as you can, come away from there and make sure that even if you have lost you have done the best you can.

“You get to play against the top teams in the Champions League and Liverpool are a top team. Their games against them are back-to-back so their destination could be sorted out in the next couple of games.”

Liverpool bounced back from their mauling in Naples when they edged out Ajax 2-1 in their following Group A game the very next week. That, though, was the only match they won last month. The death of Queen Elizabeth II and the international break meant they only played three times.

Will their lack of competitive action work against them when they play Rangers? Or will the time off have allowed injured players to return and make them stronger?  Andy Robertson, the Scotland captain who missed the Nations League triple header, is on the verge of making a comeback. 

His compatriot is unsure how the irregular build-up will affect his old side. “Liverpool have had time to get some players back fit with the break,” said Dalglsih. “But the momentum has been stalled, hasn't it? Brighton is the only game they have had. And European level is unbelievable."

In the past, “Battle of Britain” games between Scottish and English clubs have been fiercely contested. However, Sir Kenny does not expect the meeting between Liverpool and Rangers to be any different from other Champions League encounter.

“I don't think it is a leveller,” he said. "Not if you have a foreign referee. Look what happened with Rangers in the last game, with a foreign referee. He refereed it the way he would in his own country, Spain.

"It is not like the old days where it was a lot more physical. Yes, it is competitive, but it is not as physical as it used to be. So you won't get away with it. Certainly, the Liverpool players are not going to be any worse, are they? Rangers are depending on themselves being a lot better. It will be good to see."


Now in its 20th year, the annual Scottish FA grassroots awards presented by McDonald’s aim to recognise and reward people across the country that make a difference to grassroots football in their local community.