THE Europa League qualifier against Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg tomorrow evening will provide another illustration of just how much Rangers have progressed since Dave King and his associates took control at Ibrox four years ago.

A huge crowd will flock through the turnstiles in Govan and should see a team - if their form under Steven Gerrard in their pre-season friendlies and competitive matches in recent weeks is anything to go by - packed full of experienced senior players and talented youngsters ease to a comfortable triumph against their part-time opponents.

It will all be a far cry from those dark days under the despised former regime when fans stayed away in their tens of thousands and the quality of play witnessed on the field by those who did turn up fell some way short of the standards which are demanded.

Off the park, huge strides forward have been made too. They have a promising and ambitious manager in the dugout in Gerrard and a professional recruitment team headed by their director of football Mark Allen. There is, too, optimism in the boardroom that they could approach break even in the current financial year.

Yet, will the ongoing and expensive stand-off with Sports Direct still cost them dear as they attempt to challenge their city rivals Celtic for the Betfred Cup, Ladbrokes Premiership and William Hill Scottish Cup in the 2019/20 campaign?

READ MORE: Rangers claim Sports Direct injunction would 'impair ability to function as club' as they face multi-million pound payout

The majority of the historical issues which King and his cohorts inherited back in 2015 have been addressed.

The protracted dispute with the Takeover Panel, who ruled the Rangers chairman and his fellow investors had acted in concert when they seized power and ordered that he make an offer for the remainder of the shares, has, after much prevarication and posturing, been settled.

The whole sorry affair, which was instigated by former chairman David Somers after he exited the club, was a pointless exercise from the get-go. Still, it could conceivably have had far-reaching implications had it not been satisfactorily resolved.

But the dispute with Mike Ashley-owned firm shows no sign of going away any time soon. Rangers are facing a multi-million pound bill after judge Lionel Persey QC ruled they had breached the obligations of a replica kit deal in the latest round of the long-running battle in the High Court in London last Friday.

The judge’s assertion that James Blair, the company secretary, had acted untruthfully by informing SDI Retail Services, a Sports Direct Group company, that Hummel had not been granted offered rights and by failing to provide them with a copy of the agreement so they could match the offer, was damning and publicly damaging.

Given that Rangers announced two years ago that they had, at a cost of £3 million, struck a new commercial deal with Sports Direct which replaced the previous arrangement and would “bring an end to the protracted and costly litigation” the continuation of hostilities has been disheartening for many of their followers.

READ MORE: Rangers lose out in latest High Court battle with Mike Ashley's Sports Direct

It remains to be seen just how much Rangers will have to fork out after this latest unwelcome development and how damaging it will be to their efforts to become the dominant side in Scottish football once again.

The spat, though, puts them at a distinct disadvantage to Celtic despite the continuing benevolence of King and their other wealthy benefactors.

There is great optimism about the 2019/20 campaign among the Rangers support after another summer of busy transfer activity and the arrival of Joe Aribo, George Edmundson, Jake Hastie, Filip Helander, Jordan Jones, Sheyi Ojo and Greg Stewart.

Their team won both of the Glasgow derbies which were played at Ibrox last season comfortably and were arguably the better side on their last visit to Parkhead despite being on the receiving end of a narrow defeat. How much more of a force, then, will they be with the arrival of their reinforcements?

Celtic, though, continue to operate at an altogether different level in the transfer market due to years of sensible stewardship and European involvement. They lavished more on one player, their £7 million acquisition Christopher Jullien, than Rangers did on all eight of their new boys in total.

Having a larger budget and bigger wage bill, of course, do not guarantee that they will win the Scottish title for the ninth season in succession and complete an unprecedented fourth consecutive clean sweep of domestic silverware.

Rangers are banking on a few of their new signings blossoming and becoming outstanding first team performers at home and abroad. Glen Kamara, the Finnish international midfielder who cost just £50,000 from Dundee back in January, has certainly proved value for money hasn’t he?

Gerrard has, too, individuals who are every bit as good, if not better, than their counterparts in the defending champions in Steven Davis, Jermain Defoe, Allan McGregor and James Tavernier and some formidable competitors in Scott Arfield, Jon Flanagan, Connor Goldson and Ryan Jack.

If they can build on the progress they made last term and the defending champions - who have lost their centre half Dedryck Boyata and vice-captain and first-choice right Mikael Lustig and could still see their left back Kieran Tierney depart before the close of the transfer window at the end of next month - fail to do the same under their new full-time manager Neil Lennon then it will be an interesting campaign.

READ MORE: Rangers backed to win Scottish Premiership from Celtic - with whopping 91 per cent of stakes placed on Steven Gerrard's men

But overcoming a club whose revenue topped £100 million in the last financial year – thanks in no small part to merchandising sales which exceeded £17 million - for the first time ever and who have substantial reserves in the bank will still be a tall order.

If Rangers can win the Premiership while remaining locked in their bitter disagreement with Sports Direct it will be a remarkable achievement.