THE tests have been passed, the challenges overcome and the occasions risen to over the last three seasons. The next one could be the most difficult for Rangers.

From Legia Warsaw to Porto, Standard Liege to Feyenoord, Steven Gerrard's side have proven that they can thrive - rather than just survive - at Europa League level.

On Thursday night, the champions embark on another campaign as Lyon are welcomed to Ibrox and Group A - which also includes Brondby and Sparta Prague - gets off and running.

The visit of the Ligue 1 giants will be Gerrard's 50th European fixture as manager and the competition that has been as integral to Rangers' rebuilding process now offers fresh opportunities this term.

Michael Beale has been with Gerrard every step of the way along the European journey and has helped mastermind three group stage appearances and two runs to the last 16 on the continent.

As the countdown to a landmark fixture continues, Beale has taken time out of his preparations to write a blog on Rangers' rise and rise that has seen them restore their reputation as a European force.

"We have come up against some really top opponents," the Ibrox coach said on "Havertz, Diaby, Bailey (Leverkusen), Rafa Silva and Darwin Sanchez (Benfica), Falcao (Galatasaray), Danilo and Pepe (Porto), Berghuis (Feyenoord) to name a few.

"The general speed of play, thought and athleticism is a really high level. I expect this season to be no different and having played against Lyon last pre season, I’m really looking forward to our players competing against Houssem Aouar, Lucas Pacqueta and Bruno Guimaraes with Lyon this season.

"They are arguably the most talented squad we have faced in Europe so far and have a squad full of top young players like those mentioned above who have the potential to arrive in the Premier League in the future.

"One of their key midfielders is Thiago Mendes who I worked with at São Paulo FC. He is an extremely talented player who has done very well since coming to Europe and it will be good to see him again.

"Houssem Aouar is a player that I love to watch and I believe he is a fantastic talent. At 22, he has a huge future and for young players, he is a great example of close control, the ability to twist/turn away from pressure and to change the speed of the game when needed."

The achievement in winning title 55 last season will never be surpassed in terms of importance or meaning for Gerrard, his staff and his players but Rangers' endeavours in Europe are key chapters of the tale of their time together.

From the draw in Ufa to secure group stage football to the agonising defeat to Malmo in the Champions League, these nights have been a rollercoaster ride for everyone at Ibrox.

As Rangers continue to grow on and off the park, the role that European experience and income plays in the development at all levels cannot be underestimated.

"I’ve learnt so much from European football on the pitch, but also off the pitch regarding the importance it can have to a clubs future stability and growth," Beale said. "The leagues outside of the [Premier League] where TV, sponsorship and prize money isn’t so high, it provides huge financial incentives.

"The finances can then be used to help a club grow, build infrastructure and facilities but importantly it can be essential to squad building or the retaining/developing of key players. This is obviously an additional finance that the owners or board do not need to find or self fund.

"For Scotland, it can provide a huge boost to the individual clubs and the overall game. Therefore, I really welcome the UEFA Conference league this season as it gives the smaller nations and also a greater number of clubs the chance to compete on the European stage and grow as a result.

"It’s something that I feel is hugely important to the future health of football across Europe and player development outside the big [four to five] leagues where the media and sponsors focus the majority of their attention.

"For some teams, The finances generated from one successful run in European competition, can be equal to the prize money achieved over [three to four years] of domestic competition.

"Therefore, whilst the riches of the Premier League stand alone, the rest of the clubs in Europe really benefit both on and off the pitch by qualifying for one of the European competitions."

Group A may not be the section that Rangers dreamed of participating in this term but it is one which will excite a support that were left deflated in the wake of Champions League defeat.

The visits of Lyon, Brondby and Sparta promise to be exhilarating evenings over the coming months and Beale is fully aware of the importance of a capacity and partisan crowd as Rangers set their sights on the latter stages once again.

Beale said: "Simply wow! The roar against Feyenoord as (Sheyi) Ojo crashed in the winning goal, or the noise against Legia Warsaw, when (Alfredo) Morelos scored the last minute winner were moments that you will never forget.

"We have had some memorable nights at Ibrox and the fans have always played their part in making the occasions so special.

"The (Joe) Aribo mazy run and (Ianis) Hagi free kick to complete a fantastic turnaround against Braga will be a game that lives long in the memory.

"Our opponents are equally lucky to experience the chance to play at Ibrox on a European night – it’s something that all our opponents mention when visiting Glasgow.

"Let’s hope for many more nights like those in the future. The fans are able to give the team a huge lift on the pitch with their energy and passionate support."