Philippe Clement is looking for Rangers to get back to their best against St Mirren on Sunday following their Europa League struggle against Aris Limassol.

A 1-1 draw with the Cypriot side at Ibrox on Thursday night means Group C will go to the final round of fixtures, with the Light Blues taking on Real Betis in Spain on December 14 knowing that only a victory can guarantee progress in that tournament, with a Europa Conference League spot secured as an insurance policy.

Rangers turn their attention back to cinch Premiership duty with the visit of third-placed Saints, and Clement’s side will be looking to keep the pressure on leaders Celtic, who are eight points ahead at the top of the table having played a game more.

The Gers boss said: “It was the first time that I felt real disappointment in the dressing room, they were not happy with their performance.

“That is a good thing that they were not happy with their performance, but now we need to stand up on Sunday and show our best level, with what we are going to need to win that game.

“It is about making the mind-switch really fast every time and not to lose confidence for whatever reason, and go full out and get the three points from the first second the game starts.

“St Mirren will make a wall and make transitions and set-pieces like we have a lot of games in the Scottish league. So there will not be a big difference in that way and they are going to fight.

“For them, games against Rangers are maybe the biggest game of the season, so we know that.”

Defenders Leon Balogun and Ridvan Yilmaz are back in contention after missing the Aris Limassol match as they are not in the European squad.

Centre-back Connor Goldson returns from suspension and winger Scott Wright could be back from illness and a muscle problem, but Ryan Jack (unspecified injury) and fellow midfielder Nico Raskin (knee) are still out.

Clement is likely to make changes for the visit of the Buddies.

He said: “We have work to do but we are nine games together and we haven’t lost any.

“I can tell the fans that everyone is working hard to raise the level.

“With all the injuries, it was impossible for all the players to play at their best level. We play every three days and we can’t always have the same XI so we need to rotate players.”

Philippe Clement insists Rangers will be going all out to secure Europa League football against Real Betis after struggling to a 1-1 draw against Aris Limassol at Ibrox.

The Light Blues, who had suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to the Cypriot side on matchday two, struggled after falling behind after 28 minutes to a Shavy Babicka goal.

Clement replaced Todd Cantwell with 20-year-old Ross McCausland before the break and the young Northern Ireland international, who signed a new deal earlier in the week, levelled early in the second half with his first Gers goal.

Rangers moved on to eight points, one behind Real Betis whom they play in the final Group C game in Spain on December 14.

Sparta Prague are on seven points and Aris Limassol are on four and although a spot in the Europa Conference League is assured for the Light Blues, only a victory in Spain can guarantee progression in the Europa League.

Clement said: “We have everything to win there.

“We already have European football in the new year but we can also win the group.

“So for sure that is going to be the idea – to win the game and end the group in the right way.

“There are still a few weeks and I have time to think and see what the team situation is.”

The Belgian revealed he took Cantwell off to get more width into the team.

He said: “I had to make a change early, something I don’t like to do.

“But we were missing with width on our right side and missing running players in behind the defence there.

“I gave that message a few times to Todd but he kept coming into the ball all the time, so that’s why I made the change to put Ross in, who is more of that profile.

“Todd’s best position is elsewhere but we have been in the situation where we haven’t had a lot of players on the right side.

“Scott Wright was not available, and Ross [McCausland] is coming out of the academy and taking his first steps and he is not ready to shine every three days, and play every 90 minutes; that’s impossible.

“And Rabbi Matondo was injured. So we have had a lot of problems in the last couple of weeks. Players are coming back, but we have to work hard.

“I know Todd’s best position is as a number 10, or coming off the left side, so I’m really happy with him, what he has showed for the team in the last couple of weeks because he played that position, and he can play that position.”

Aris Limassol boss Aleksey Shpilevsky claimed the unbeaten double against the Glasgow giants was a “miracle” as he expressed disappointment at leaving with only a point which ends their European journey this season.

He said: “The fact that we are undefeated against this big team, it is like a miracle not only for Aris but for all of Cyprus.

“What the guys are doing, with our budget, with our conditions, perhaps you can show the guys our training pitch and what it looks like then you will laugh at this, that makes it absolutely amazing.

“We are very disappointed about the fact that we didn’t manage to win.

“It was possible. It was not the best game from our side but we didn’t allow too many chances for Rangers, the way it might be expected.

“It is always crazy and always upset to lose a goal like that and that’s why I am disappointed about a draw in Ibrox against an amazing club, amazing fans, amazing atmosphere but it was possible but we have to accept it.”

Rangers’ European journey will continue into 2024 but a disconcerting 1-1 draw with Aris Limassol means a wait until the final Group C fixture to see if progress will be in the Europa League.

The Light Blues had suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to the Cypriot side on matchday two following the departure of boss Michael Beale and on a freezing evening in Govan they were in trouble again in the 28th minute when Shavy Babicka scored on the break.

Boss Philippe Clement replaced Todd Cantwell with Ross McCausland before the break and the young Northern Ireland attacker scored his first Gers goal early in the second half to level.

A poor first-half performance improved only marginally and although Clement remains unbeaten in nine games, there were boos at the end.

Rangers moved on to eight points, one behind Real Betis whom they play in the final Group C game in Spain next month, with Sparta Prague on seven and  Aris Limassol on four and there are permutations in terms of finishing in the top two but at least third place and a spot in the Europa Conference League is guaranteed.

Clement had some reshuffling to do for the visit of the group’s bottom side.

With Connor Goldson suspended and Leon Balogun not in the European squad, the Belgian had to change his centre-back pairing with Ben Davies and John Souttar coming in.

Attacking midfielder Sam Lammers came in for Tom Lawrence but he miskicked from 12 yards in the sixth minute as Rangers began to build some momentum.

However, in the 11th minute Gers keeper Jack Butland had to produce a fine save from a 25-yard thunderbolt from Aris left-back Caju, the home side surviving the corner.

Rangers struggled to click into gear and there was no surprise when they fell behind to the visiting side growing in belief.

After Cantwell had conceded possession in the Aris half, Aleksandr Kokorin’s long pass split Souttar and Davies and Gabon striker Babicka skipped past the latter and then rounded Butland before knocking the ball into the empty net.

As Ibrox continued to grumble in frustration, Kokorin hammered the ball over the bar from 12 yards before boos accompanied Clement’s 35th-minute substitution of Cantwell for 20-year-old winger McCausland, who signed a new deal earlier in the week.

The fans’ ire, though, was mostly directed at Lammers who was having a wretched game but there were more general boos at half-time.

However, three minutes after the restart McCausland had the stadium cheering when he took a pass from Danilo, who had taken advantage of a sloppy throw-in, and drilled the ball low into the net off the far post.

Rangers fans urged their side to inject pace into their game and they were happy to see Lawrence replace Lammers in the 57th minute, just before striker Danilo failed to control a pass from skipper James Tavernier inside the box.

In the 63rd minute, after Rangers broke with pace, McCausland had a shot blocked inside the Aris penalty area after playing an elongated one-two with Lawrence before a Danilo header tested Aris goalkeeper and captain Vana.

Rabbi Matondo took over from Abdallah Sima in the 79th minute but it never really looked like the winner would come and indeed Aris had a few forays in the final minutes, also to no avail.

The journey moves on to Seville but Rangers have to show much more than they did against a very ordinary Aris Limassol team.

The cinch Premiership returned after the international break and as usual there was plenty of drama and excitement.

Celtic surprisingly dropped two points at home to Motherwell on Saturday but Rangers failed to capitalise at Aberdeen, depending on a late James Tavernier penalty for a 1-1 draw, leaving the Hoops still eight points clear at the top albeit the Light Blues have a game in hand.

Hearts, St Mirren and Hibernian all won and Livingston remain bottom after another defeat.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five things that caught the eye.

Rangers blow chance to move closer to Celtic

Skipper James Tavernier scored a last-gasp penalty to give Rangers a 1-1 draw with Aberdeen at Pittodrie but it was an afternoon when the chance to boost title hopes was passed up. The visitors fell behind after just 11 minutes to a Bojan Miovski strike and hit the woodwork twice after the break. But just when it looked like Philippe Clement would lose for the first time as Gers boss,  there was a VAR intervention. After checking his pitchside monitor, referee Nick Walsh decided Aberdeen’s Stefan Garternmann had pulled Connor Goldson’s jersey at a corner and pointed to the spot. Tavernier scored for a point which keeps Celtic eight points clear at the top having played a game more.

Hoops pay the penalty

David Turnbull slotted home an 86th-minute spot-kick to open the scoring against Motherwell but Luis Palma had earlier become the third Celtic player to miss a penalty this season, following Reo Hatate and Turnbull after Liam Kelly saved his effort. However, Motherwell quickly levelled through Jon Obika following Turnbull’s goal. Brendan Rodgers admitted he had identified issues with Celtic’s penalties after they missed three last season and the issues from 12 yards could prove costly.

Lawrence Shankland’s purple patch continues

Just over a month ago, Lawrence Shankland was on an eight-game scoring drought. Things have changed significantly for the Hearts striker over the past month or so, however, to the extent where he is capable of scoring even when he does not know much about it – as was the case in Saturday’s 1-0 win over St Johnstone. Liam Boyce’s well-executed shot appeared to be netbound anyway but it deflected off Shankland’s leg on the way in and was subsequently credited to the Scotland forward. Shankland now has 11 goals for the season at club level, with six strikes in his last six outings for Hearts.

Livingston are on the slide

David Martindale’s side are bottom of the table, one point behind St Johnstone and Ross County, following their sixth successive defeat. Sean Kelly’s first-half own goal gave all three points to hosts St Mirren and Livi have now failed to score in five or their last six games. They have three home games coming up, against Ross County, Hibernian and Kilmarnock, to try to get their season back on track.

No win for Derek Adams on Ross County return

Adams this week returned to the Staggies’ hot-seat for the third time, following the departure of Malky Mackay. His first game was against Kilmarnock at home but there was no new manager bounce. Killie had yet to win on the road and once again came up short, having to settle for a point from a goalless draw. The Dingwall outfit have gone 10 games without a win in all competitions and have not scored in the last three. Adams has his work cut out to get County back to form.

Philippe Clement would not countenance the notion of a missed opportunity to put Celtic under pressure after a last-gasp James Tavernier penalty rescued a point for Rangers at Aberdeen.

The cinch Premiership leaders dropped two points in their 1-1 draw at home to Motherwell on Saturday to give the Light Blues the chance to dig into their lead, but Clement’s side looked to be heading for defeat at Pittodrie following Bojan Miovski’s early strike.

Rangers hit the woodwork twice in the second half and then, in the final minute of normal time, after being sent by VAR Andrew Dallas to check his pitchside monitor, referee Nick Walsh pointed to the spot, judging Stefan Gartenmann had pulled Connor Goldson’s jersey at a corner.

Skipper Tavernier converted to salvage a point and preserve Clement’s unbeaten record since taking over last month, but Celtic remained eight points clear, albeit having played a game more.

“It is nothing to do with top of the table or whatever,” the Rangers boss said.

“If you had the XG that we had today, we should have scored more goals. It is a big XG for an away game against a tough opponents, all credit to Aberdeen.

“When you go behind to them they defend with a lot of numbers and a lot of passion in small spaces so it is not easy to create so many chances and then it is about centimetres.

“We should have won this game. We had the best chances. It was a day that things didn’t go our way because of a good goalkeeper and twice hitting the crossbar, but finally we got the goal.”

It was revealed earlier this week that, in the first round of top-flight fixtures, only three decisions were deemed incorrect by the Scottish Football Association’s independent review panel.

The 12 Premiership clubs held a meeting with the SFA’s referees department on Thursday to review the performance of VAR during the opening round of fixtures.

Former Belgium defender Clement confirmed himself a fan of the VAR, saying: “I was asked this question a few weeks ago, about my opinion of VAR, and I’m a fan because it makes the game more honest.

“Of course there are still some mistakes and some decisions that stay in a grey area.

“That’s also why you guys (media) have a lot of work, because there are a lot of opinions after games and I think you guys like that also.

“People respond and are fans for one team or another.

“But in the end, if you are objective, you can only say VAR makes the game more honest than in my days. So I’m a fan of that.

“Clearly, it’s a penalty. If you pull a shirt like that, you see the shirt comes like this. It’s a penalty. You cannot use your hands in that way.”

By contrast, Dons boss Barry Robson was far from convinced about the penalty, saying a late VAR decision in Rangers’ favour “doesn’t look good”.

Robson said: “I wasn’t at the VAR meeting – I was training and it was in Glasgow, which wasn’t great timing – but what I heard was there was a lot said about pulling jerseys in boxes and the referees said not every one is a penalty.

“So Stefan got blocked, I think we all see that, so obviously VAR have not bothered looking at the block, they have just looked at the pull of the shirt.

“We are in trouble, aren’t we, if this is the way it is going to go?

“It doesn’t look great. For me it doesn’t look good, another VAR decision going Rangers way in the 90th minute again.”

Asked what he meant by “it doesn’t look good”, he replied: “It is just a goal in the 90th minute – that’s it.”

Asked what he said to referee Walsh after the game, he said: “I hope you got it right. There’s too many decisions been wrong in Scotland.”

Rangers blew their chance of putting pressure on Celtic despite a late James Tavernier penalty giving them a 1-1 draw against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

The Light Blues saw a chink of title light on Saturday when the cinch Premiership leaders drew 1-1 at home to Motherwell but they fell behind after just 11 minutes to a Bojan Miovski strike after the static Gers defence had again been exposed.

Any time Rangers did get through Dons keeper Kelle Roos and the Aberdeen crossbar – the Gers hit the woodwork twice after the break – provided a formidable barrier.

However, in the final minute of normal time, after being sent by VAR Andrew Dallas to check his pitchside monitor, referee Nick Walsh pointed to the spot, judging Aberdeen’s Stefan Garternmann had pulled Connor Goldson’s jersey at a corner.

Skipper Tavernier converted the spot kick for a draw which keeps Celtic eight points clear at the top of the table albeit the Hoops have played one more game than their Old Firm rivals.

Philippe Clement has gone eight games unbeaten since becoming Gers boss but he will feel this was an opportunity missed against the side they meet in next month’s Viaplay Cup final at Hampden Park.

Aberdeen’s convincing 3-1 win at Ibrox in September ended Michael Beale’s time as Rangers boss and former Gers striker and current pundit Kris Boyd had added spice to the game by saying Aberdeen players, who lost 6-0 to Celtic in their last outing, would raise their game against the Light Blues.

The home side, who had Slovenian Ester Sokler making his first league start with winger Ryan Duncan and midfielder Jamie McGrath back in the team, certainly started with purpose.

Defender Slobodan Rubezic’s header from a Leighton Clarkson free-kick was saved by Gers keeper Jack Butland who, moments later, brilliantly denied Sokler with his left foot, after the forward had been sent racing clear of the Gers defence by Clarkson.

Rangers had Jose Cifuentes making his first start under Clements with fellow midfielders Todd Cantwell also returning along with Brazilian striker Danilo but it was midfielder Tom Lawrence who came close to getting the breakthrough, his drive saved by Roos.

The Dons keeper was the initial architect of the route-one opener, his long clearance headed on by Sokler with North Macedonia striker Miovski this time running past centre-backs Goldson and Leon Balogun before confidently guiding the ball low past Butland.

Slowly Rangers came back and a Cantwell pass which sped across the Aberdeen goal in the 25th minute was begging to be tapped in before Roos saved Danilo’s close-range effort with his foot.

The Pittodrie number one then made a magnificent save from Balogun’s header from Abdallah Sima’s cross before grabbing John Lundstram’s attempt from the rebound.

At the other end, as the Granite City men rallied, Butland parried clear a powerful 25-yard strike from McGrath, the last real goalmouth action of the first half.

Roos made another decent block from Danilo’s angled-drive early in the second half as the visitors went in search of a leveller.

Rangers kept Aberdeen pinned in their own half for large spells but the Dons defended diligently although in the 73rd minute Lawrence cracked the Dons bar with a 30-yard volley before Balogun hit the bar with a header from close range.

The Govan side kept pushing and got their reward with Tavernier’s late penalty with substitute Sam Lammer missing a good chance to win it in added time when he headed straight in to the arms of Roos.

Philippe Clement is taking nothing from the best and worst of Aberdeen as he readies his Rangers side for the trip to Pittodrie on Sunday.

The Dons, who will face off against the Ibrox men in the Viaplay Cup final at Hampden Park next month, were thrashed 6-0 at Celtic Park in the cinch Premiership immediately before the international break.

However, a comprehensive 3-1 league win against Rangers at Ibrox in September signalled the end for former Gers boss Michael Beale, with Steven Davis taking over on an interim basis before Clement arrived from Belgium.

The 49-year-old former Genk, Club Brugge and Monaco boss denied there would be extra motivation for the Ibrox side following their most recent meeting with the Granite City side.

He said:  “I don’t think it works that way. I’ve never worked that way. The past is the past and every game has its own story.

“There are other players available now on both sides. It’s an away game.

“We need to focus on ourselves. If we’d won that game 6-0 it would not have been different preparation this time.”

As for the Dons’ dismal performance at Parkhead, Clement said: “It wasn’t their best day so I think it’s not an advantage for us because you know that after a game like that, you always have a team and players who want to react to show they’re better.

“And they are better because they’ve shown these last couple of few months.”

Clement is glad to see winger Rabbi Matondo available again after being out since September with a knee injury.

The Belgian said: “He can also play central and his best period in Belgium (on loan at Cercle Brugge from Schalke 04) was as a second striker where he had a lot of freedom.

“He’s an electric player, he can eliminate fast one versus one with his dribbles, with his actions and his speed.

“So it’s someone really interesting to break open walls but of course, he comes out of an injury, he was a long time out, so we can’t expect him to get his highest level from the first minute he plays so it’ll be building with him and he can give something to the team.”

Jonny Hayes believes Aberdeen can take inspiration from last season as they bid to belatedly spark their cinch Premiership campaign into life.

The Dons are currently ninth in the table with just three wins from their 11 games as they adapt to juggling the demands of domestic matters with competing in the Europa Conference League.

However, Hayes is not alarmed by their current predicament as he recalls how they ended up finishing third last term – despite being seventh in early February following a poor run that cost previous boss Jim Goodwin his job.

“There’s still a long time,” said the veteran wide player. “If you look at last season, we can take confidence from that.

“We weren’t in a great place around January time, we slipped down the league, but we still managed to come good and put a run together.

“Regardless of where we are in November, we know if we hit a bit of form and put a run together we can still compete and qualify for Europe next season.”

The Dons host Rangers on Sunday – three weeks prior to their Hampden rematch in the Viaplay Cup final – but Hayes is adamant they are not feeling any extra pressure as a result of their poor start to the league campaign.

Despite being ninth, and having lost their last match 6-0 away to Celtic, they are still within seven points of third-placed St Mirren.

“I think if you get towards March-April time, you want to make sure you’re at the right end of the table, but there’s still a long way to go,” he said.

“You want to win every game, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think we’re getting overly concerned with league positions considering how tight it is. If you’re playing in cup competitions and Europe, and the league is tight it can be of benefit because you know you’re not going to lose too much ground.

“But regardless of whether you’re first or ninth, you’re going out to try and win every game no matter who you’re playing.

“You look more at the league table towards the end of the season, that’s when you’re maybe under a bit more pressure to win games to survive, qualify for Europe or win the league, whatever it may be that you’re trying to do.”

Steve Agnew admitted Aberdeen are expecting to host a different Rangers side on Sunday to the version they defeated 3-1 at Ibrox almost two months ago.

The Dons pulled off an impressive victory over the Gers on the last day of September, leading to the sacking of the Glasgow club’s boss Michael Beale two days later.

Since then Philippe Clement has taken over and overseen a seven-game unbeaten run in all competitions – including six wins – ensuring Rangers head to Pittodrie this weekend with renewed confidence.

“Obviously that was an encouraging performance and result at Ibrox but there have been changes there,” said Dons assistant Agnew on Thursday. “They’ve obviously changed the coach and results have been good since the new coach has come in.

“Rangers will be slightly different because a new coach usually changes the way he wants the team to play. We’re aware of that and we’ve analysed Rangers.

“We know it will be a tough game but we’re all really looking forward to it. We’re quietly confident. There will be a great atmosphere on Sunday and we believe we’re more than capable of getting the result we want.”

Aberdeen and Rangers meet again three weeks later in the Viaplay Cup final, but Agnew is adamant the Hampden showdown on 17 December will not come into the Dons’ thoughts this weekend.

“I think Rangers at Pittodrie, Sunday lunchtime, is as far as we look,” he said. “All our focus is on that. Anything beyond that, we really don’t look at. Sunday is just an exciting fixture that we can’t wait for.”

Sunday’s match is the first of 12 for Aberdeen in just over five weeks before they sign off for a short winter break after their trip to Ross County on 2 January. Agnew is confident the Dons – currently ninth in the league – are equipped to handle the demands of what promises to be a gruelling run.

“It is a big challenge, the number of games coming in such a short period of time,” he said. “We adapt training because of the amount of games and in the summer the club were terrific in terms of the recruitment so we have a squad in place to take us through this hectic period.

“We’re all quietly confident as a group that by the time we come through all this, we’ll be in a healthy place, whether that’s a cup final that goes well or moving up the league.”

After another exciting cinch Premiership weekend, Celtic are still eight points clear of Rangers at the top of the table, albeit the Light Blues have a game in hand.

Livingston find themselves bottom after another defeat amid a St Johnstone resurgence.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five things that caught the eye.

Celtic bounce back in style

Brendan Rodgers’ side were thrashed 6-0 by Atletico Madrid in the Champions League in Spain on Tuesday, also ending up with 10 men following the dismissal of Daizen Maeda. The result left them bottom of their group and facing some heavy criticism.

However, they were on top form against an abject Aberdeen side in their Premiership encounter, with South Korean forward Yang Hyun-jun scoring his first Celtic goal and Japan striker Kyogo Furuhashi adding a second before the break.

Winger Luis Palma scored a penalty in the 76th minute and the Dons capitulated in 10 added minutes at the end of the game, with Celtic substitutes David Turnbull and Oh Hyeong-yu (two) on target as Rodgers’ men restored their eight-point lead over Rangers at the top of the table.

Ross McCausland shines on first Rangers start

Philippe Clement’s strong start to his Rangers reign continued with a comfortable 2-0 win at Livingston on Sunday. The Belgian has now presided over six wins and a spirited draw away to Sparta Prague in his seven matches in charge.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the win in West Lothian was the lively display of 20-year-old winger Ross McCausland, who earned his first start after six previous appearances as a substitute.

The Northern Irish youngster went close with an early attempt, won a penalty and appeared unfortunate to have a ferocious strike ruled out after team-mate Abdallah Sima was harshly penalised in the build-up.

Relief for under-fire Steven Naismith

This international break could have been extremely grim for Hearts and Steven Naismith if Saturday’s trip to Motherwell had not gone as smoothly as it did.

The Jambos boss was coming under heavy pressure after a run of one win in five matches and a generally underwhelming start to the campaign but Saturday’s impressive 2-1 win at Fir Park has served as a timely boost for the embattled manager.

Supporters were encouraged by the display and Hearts now sit within two points of third place. With a more favourable run of fixtures to come after the break, Naismith has given himself a chance to generate some winter momentum.

St Mirren dumped in Dundee

Stephen Robinson’s Saints side started the season in impressive style, moving up to third place in the table behind the Old Firm.

There were signs of a wobble before the Paisley side travelled to Tayside – one win in six in all competitions. However, there was little indication of a collapse on Tayside.

The Buddies found themselves two down at the interval with the loss of another double after the break. Robinson spoke after the game of a reset, as his side are now just two points ahead of Hearts.

Graham Carey finds a little positivity amid personal troubles

St Johnstone fans and the wider football community this week gave their support to Carey and his wife, Rachel Borthwick, who is facing up to another cancer battle.

After a 2-2 draw at home to Motherwell on Tuesday night in Craig Levein’s first game as Saints boss, the Perth side hosted fellow strugglers Ross County on Saturday.

A stunning strike by Carey in the 71st minute of a tight contest kept the three points in Perth and took St Johnstone off the bottom of the table and ultimately above Livingston and the Staggies.

Philippe Clement praised Rangers for the way they dealt with a “tricky” trip to Livingston as he called on the Scottish football authorities to consider implementing Sunday evening kick-off times for teams playing in Europe on a Thursday.

The Rangers boss watched his team run out comfortable 2-0 winners at the Tony Macaroni Arena less than 72 hours after an energy-sapping 2-1 victory over Sparta Prague in the Europa League.

Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibernian and the Ibrox side have all had to contend with playing domestic matches on Sunday afternoons after Thursday night European fixtures this term, and Clement feels Scotland should follow the lead of other leagues by allowing teams more recovery time in such situations.

“I think it’s better for Scottish football to do it that way,” said the Belgian. “They do it in Belgium and in other leagues.

“People who have never played may think, ‘what is the difference between six hours or eight hours more?’ but it’s a big difference in the recovery of a body, these hours of sleep and recovery because it’s a really short time for players to recover.

“We play every three days, we will have a schedule of 12 games in about 38 days (after the international break) so recovery is an important part of it. The food, the drink, the cryo, when to sleep.

“It’s important I think in every league that teams that play in Europe on Thursday evening play on the Sunday evening. In a lot of leagues, that’s done so it’s maybe something we can see in the future.”

Clement made four changes for the Livingston game and admitted his team selection was influenced by the gruelling impact of the Sparta match.

“Yes, because for example, Danilo did 1,300 metres of high-intensity runs on Thursday so if I let him start today I take a risk, for example,” he said. “Of course, I looked at that.”

The win at Livingston came courtesy of a first-half goal from Cyriel Dessers and a second-half penalty from James Tavernier, who had missed an earlier spot-kick. Rangers also had first-half goals from Connor Goldson and Ross McCausland – on his first start – ruled out following VAR reviews.

“It was a tricky game, with the circumstances with the (plastic) pitch which is not an advantage for us with the football we want to play,” said Clement.

“Also kick-off at 12 o’clock after a European night. Also having European success and then playing domestically, it’s sometimes dangerous in the heads of the players.

“So the team showed a really good mentality and the right spirit to play a very mature game because we didn’t give away anything and we deserved to win, clearly.

“Also when you miss a penalty and a goal is disallowed, sometimes you get in dangerous games for losing points because the circumstances are not on your side. At the end, it’s a very positive afternoon.”

Livingston go into the international break after suffering a fifth consecutive defeat. Manager David Martindale – who rued a “disappointing” first-half performance – is unfazed by their current predicament.

“This is not an abnormal situation for us,” he said. “Yes, we are bottom of the league on goal difference, but we have gone on spells where we’ve not won a game in five in most seasons.

“We just need to get back on track. I am not big on stats or data, it’s about one game at a time and what we can control. Hopefully that will lead to performances, which leads to results.”

James Tavernier missed a penalty and scored another as Rangers maintained their encouraging start under Philippe Clement with a comfortable 2-0 win away to struggling Livingston on Sunday.

Cyriel Dessers set the Ibrox men on their way to victory in the first half with his sixth goal of the season before captain Tavernier sealed the points with a second-half spot-kick after he had sent his earlier attempt from 12 yards out wide of the post.

Clement has now overseen seven games unbeaten – six of which have brought victories – since replacing Michael Beale last month.

After four consecutive defeats left his side bottom of the table prior to the visit of the on-form Ibrox men, Livi boss David Martindale made five changes to the team that lost 1-0 to Dundee last Sunday.

Goalkeeper Jack Hamilton, Miles Welch-Hayes, Jason Holt, Danny Lloyd and Stephen Kelly all dropped out to make way for Shamal George, Cristian Montano, Mo Sangare, Bruce Anderson and Luiyi de Lucas.

Clement freshened up his Rangers team for the trip to West Lothian, making four alterations to the XI that started Thursday night’s 2-1 win at home to Sparta Prague in the Europa League.

Ben Davies, Todd Cantwell, Sam Lammers and Danilo dropped out to be replaced by Leon Balogun, Dessers, Tom Lawrence and Ross McCausland, who was handed his first Gers start.

After enjoying a bright opening, the Ibrox side thought they had gone ahead in the 16th minute when Connor Goldson had the ball in the net from close range.

However, the goal was ruled out following a VAR check after Dessers was deemed to have been offside and interfering with play as he darted in at the near post and tried to get a touch on Tavernier’s inswinging free-kick. The wrong-footed Livi keeper George then pushed the ball out to Balogun, who in turn nodded it into the path of fellow centre-back Goldson.

Rangers created a good opening with a rapid counter-attack three minutes later but McCausland shot over after bursting on to a Lawrence pass.

The 20-year-old winger’s pace caused more problems for the Lions midway through the first half when he won a penalty after being brought down by George as he ran on to a Tavernier pass.

Tavernier, however, sent his spot kick wide of the goalkeeper’s left-hand post.

Rangers had been well on top and they made a deserved breakthrough in the 26th minute when a lovely pass from Lawrence released Nigerian forward Dessers, who got away from Sean Kelly to slot the ball behind the advancing George.

McCausland thought he had scored his first senior goal for Rangers when he fired the ball high into the net just before half-time but the goal was disallowed for a foul by Abdallah Sima.

Rangers continued to dominate after the break but – after struggling to create many clear chances – they had to wait until the 74th minute to put the game beyond their hosts.

Following a VAR check, it was deemed that the ball struck the arm of Michael Devlin as the Livi captain challenged Rangers forwards Danilo and Sima in the air while trying to defend a cross from the left from Borna Barisic.

This time Tavernier made no mistake in tucking the ball to the right of the helpless George as Rangers continued their strong start to Clement’s reign and left Livi at the foot of the table on goal difference from Ross County.

Livingston manager David Martindale is hoping his struggling Livingston team can rise to the occasion and find a way of halting a Rangers side he feels are “in a good place” under new boss Philippe Clement.

The Ibrox team head to the Tony Macaroni Arena on Sunday in buoyant mood after winning five and drawing one of their six matches since the Belgian replaced Michael Beale last month.

“They’re unbeaten so that tells you everything you need to know,” said Martindale when asked what he has made of Rangers under Clement.

“He’s gone in and got a good start so that then breeds a bit of momentum, which breeds self-confidence and self-esteem in the players, so ultimately you’re probably getting better performances from the players.

“I think he’s done a very good job and they’re in a good place as a club.”

While Rangers have enjoyed a resurgence since their managerial change, Livingston have lost their last four matches to slip towards the foot of the cinch Premiership. Martindale hopes the big-game “buzz” can help them get back on track this weekend.

“You’re at home and you’ve got the opportunity to go and pick up three points against one of the biggest clubs in the league,” said the Lions boss.

“When either of the Old Firm come along to the Tony Mac, there’s always a buzz and then when you bring in Sky (TV) there’s an extra buzz about the game.

“It kind of lifts the atmosphere throughout the training week and you probably find the players are a wee bit more at it and there are not as many players in the physio’s room in the lead-up to the game.

“It brings a different kind of matchday atmosphere.”

Philippe Clement warned his Rangers players that Europa League knockout football is not yet assured despite a 2-1 win over Sparta Prague taking them in to second place in Group C.

In a thrilling first-half performances Brazilian striker Danilo got the breakthrough after 11 minutes before midfielder Todd Cantwell added a second in the 20th minute but the second half was not so convincing.

Sparta substitute Lukas Haraslin reduced the deficit in the 77th minute and although Danilo soon had the ball in the net again it was ruled out after VAR check for a foul and in the end the Light Blues were glad to hang on.

Real Betis have nine Group C points, Rangers have seven, Sparta Prague have four and Aris Limassol just three.

Rangers host Aris Limassol later in the month and can confirm qualification with a victory before concluding their campaign next month with a trip to Spain to face Real Betis.

However, Clement said: “If there is one thing I don’t want is that the players now think that we are qualified.

“We made a really important step forward that is true but we don’t have anything in our heads for the moment.

“We need to get our points against Aris or against Betis, we still have two games to go.

“It is focus and concentration to try to get three points out of every game and we know that football is a game that you don’t always get what you deserve. There can be circumstances that can go against you so we have to be at the top level every time.”

Clement is unbeaten in six games since taking over the Gers hot seat from Michael Beale – the only blip was a goalless draw against Sparta Prague away – and he claimed the first half was the best so far as he called for a complete 90-minute performance.

He said: “If you see the strength of the opponent, this is the best team we have played against until now, as we did in Prague (0-0).

“The first half  was really good, I want to see that football for 90 minutes, that is the goal.

“We could not do that from the situation we were in a few weeks ago, we need more time for that, to get everyone at the top physical level to do the distances, intensity and high speeds with and without the ball.”

Sparta Prague boss Brian Priske, a former team-mate of Clement at Club Brugge, conceded that Rangers were the better side on the night.

He said: “Yes they were, we have to admit it. Over 90 minutes for sure, they were the better side.

“The first half they really punished us, they played well, created big chances and we struggled creating chances and defending as we normally do.”

Rangers moved clear into second place in Europa League Group C with what turned out to be a nervy 2-1 win over Sparta Prague at Ibrox.

The two sides fought out a goalless draw in the Czech Republic last month but it took only 11 minutes for Brazilian striker Danilo to get the breakthrough before midfielder Todd Cantwell added a second in the 20th minute.

The visitors smartened up after the break however, with substitute Lukas Haraslin reducing the deficit in the 77th minute and although Danilo soon had the ball in the net again it was ruled out after VAR check for a foul and in the end the home players and fans were glad to hear the final whistle.

Philippe Clement has now gone six games unbeaten since taking over as Light Blues boss and incremental improvement is clear, but they were holding on at the end.

Real Betis have nine points, Rangers have seven, Sparta Prague have four and Aris Limassol just three.

Rangers host Aris Limassol later in the month before concluding their campaign next month with a trip to Spain to face Real Betis and there is plenty still at stake.

The home side were buoyed by their commanding 3-1 Viaplay Cup semi-final win over Hearts on Sunday and Clement made one change with centre-back Ben Davies in for Leon Balogun, who, along with left-back Ridvan Yilmaz, was not included in the European squad by former boss Michael Beale.

Rangers’ first chance came in the fifth minute when a cut-back from Cantwell just missed the sliding Danilo, wearing a mask again to protect a cheekbone injury.

However, the Gers striker soon took advantage of a horror mistake by the visitors, intercepting a lazy backpass from defender James Gomez before racing through to slip the ball past keeper Peter Vindahl for his third goal in four games.

The Czech side were rattled and Vindahl soon had to make a save from a spectacular Cantwell effort.

At the other end, Rangers keeper Jack Butland tipped a header from Gomez over the bar for another corner which came to nothing, before Rangers stretched the lead.

Danilo took possession deep in the visitors’ half, moved the ball onto the right-hand side for Cantwell who turned back inside Gomez before bending a drive into the far corner for his first goal of the season and once again the home fans were celebrating.

Sparta players came together in an impromptu ring to try to sort things out but it got no better.

In the 27th minute a poor clearance from Sparta captain Asger Sorensen from an Abdallah Sima cross ended at the feet of Danilo and he smashed the outside of the post with a drive from 16 yards and 10 minutes later skipper James Tavernier came close with a 25-yard free-kick.

Gomez was having a torrid night and his slip allowed Cantwell  to run clear on to a Connor Goldson pass but his unconvincing shot was blocked by the foot of Vindahl.

There was no surprise when Gomez failed to emerge for the second half with Victor Olatunji also staying inside as Qazim Laci and Tomas Wiesner came on for Czech side who began to push Rangers back for the first time, with Laci sending a header past the post just after the hour mark.

Clement’s side could not get going and in the 69th minute Cantwell made way for  young attacker Ross McCausland to give a much-needed energy boost to the Govan side.

Still Sparta had the upper hand and Haraslin just missed the target with a shot into the ground following a corner.

Vindahl made saves from McCausland and midfielder Ryan Jack as Rangers tried to reassert themselves but they found themselves under real pressure when Haraslin played a one-two with Angelo Preciado and swept the ball into the net from 10 yards.

Danilo looked like he had immediately restored Rangers’ two-goal lead but Italian referee David Massa checked his pitch side monitor and decided that the Gers attacker had tripped Serensen to get his chance.

Butland made a fine save from Haraslin’s powerful drive as Rangers defended desperately for a valuable three points which looked like being a lot easier earned at the interval.

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