WHEN the draw was made for the Europa League last 32, the majority of the fans were saying it could have been a lot worse for Rangers.

Braga were sitting mid-table in Portugal, weren't in great form and we were still right up there in the Premiership.

It was seen as a great chance for Steven Gerrard's side to get through another round.

Three months on and on the eve of the first leg at Ibrox on Thursday night, it is Rangers that are now struggling in the league and Braga are on a terrific run of form under new boss Ruben Amorim.

Braga are now third in the table and have beaten Porto, Sporting and Benfica over the last few weeks. So they will head to Glasgow in good form and full of confidence.

Amorim has clearly made a real impact there since being appointed in December but Braga should never have been written off and Steven certainly won't underestimate them in this tie.

This is a side, after all, that progressed easily from a group that included Wolves, Besiktas and Slovan Bratislava.

If Braga had still been sitting lower down the Primeira Liga, people would have been saying that we should be beating them, especially having performed so well against Porto and taken four points from the two games against them in Group G.

Now, people will be a bit more wary about the threat that Braga pose and Rangers will be underdogs to go through this tie.

If they are to reach the last 16, they will need to treat these two fixtures like the Old Firm games in terms of their attitude and application.

If you give Braga time and space to play, they will cause you real problems. So we need to force them into mistakes, keep it tight at the back and, of course, be more clinical in front of goal when the chances come around for us.

Braga will be confident they can come to Ibrox and get a result. They will have had Rangers watched over the last few weeks and will have seen that the team isn't playing as well now as it was before the Premiership winter break.

That doesn't mean that Rangers can't get back to those levels, however, and this is the kind of game and occasion that should inspire them to be at their best once again.

There is a bit of pressure on them right now. But what a chance they have to get the supporters back on side and give everyone a real lift after what has been a hugely disappointing few weeks.

This is the time for Rangers to produce a performance, get a result and put their recent troubles behind them.

Steven knows more than anyone that the team isn't playing as well as it can right now but we have seen Rangers rise to the occasion in European competition over the last two seasons and they certainly need to do that again in the next week.

These games are a chance for you to get noticed, for you to really make an impression in the game outside of Scotland.

Away from these shores, there are not a lot of people that care or that have the highest regard for the game here. It is treated as a joke.

But when you go into Europe and you take on the likes of Villarreal, Spartak Moscow and Rapid Vienna and then qualify from a tough group containing Porto, Feyenoord and Young Boys, you certainly do your reputation, both individually and collectively, no harm at all.

This, then, is a big chance for these players. They have done well and can be proud of their efforts so far.

If you had said to them ahead of the first qualifier over in Gibraltar that they would make it to this stage of the Europa League this season, they would have grabbed it with both hands.

Now they have a chance to do something special against Braga because it has been a long time, too long, since Rangers have been this far in a European competition.

There has been some grumblings from the supporters recently and I can understand why.

After a great start to the season, the players haven't hit the heights since the break.

This is a chance, on a big stage, to start to redeem themselves a bit and it would be great if they could get a result to take over to Portugal for the second leg next week.

It is probably a welcome break from the Premiership and it is a massive game in front of a big Ibrox crowd.

The most important thing is getting a result, but Steven and the supporters will be looking for a performance as well against a very good side.

Steven has helped restore Rangers' reputation in Europe over the last two seasons and the work he has done on the continent has been excellent.

But that is gone, it is behind Rangers now. Where we are now compared to a few years ago is terrific, but you need to keep moving forward and progressing and these kind of nights will be one of the reasons why the manager and his staff came to Rangers.

This is possibly going to be their hardest game of the competition so far but Rangers certainly have a chance.

You can usually tell how Rangers are going to fare within the first 10, 15 minutes of games. They have to start well on Thursday, not let Braga settle and get the crowd right behind them.

It is the same old story saying you need to keep a clean sheet, but that is so important for Rangers at Ibrox.

We have been giving away a lot of stupid goals recently and that can't continue here. If Braga score, you leave yourself up against it next week.

I would take a 1-0 win all day long and that would give us something to hold onto. This will be difficult for Rangers, but it is still a winnable tie.