Despite throwing away a two-goal lead at Benfica on Thursday night, Rangers are in a strong position to qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League. But former Ibrox striker Kris Boyd says the Scottish Premiership has to be a priority for the Light Blues this season as they bid to stop Celtic from winning 10 titles in a row.

Boyd has been impressed with Rangers under Steven Gerrard, who he says has slowly improved his former side, while adding that things are still a work in progress under the former Liverpool midfielder’s reign.

“It’s been a work in progress,” Boyd said. “When Steven Gerrard arrived at Rangers everybody was thinking ‘this is it’. But what we’ve seen over the last couple of years has been step by step.

“This season it’s totally different. There’s a belief in the club that Rangers can challenge and go all the way this year.

“People might say that the same was said last year, but there is a different feeling this year. They’ve learnt from the mistakes last year and it’s got the makings of an interesting title race this year.

“Steven has improved as a manager and the players have improved as a group as well. He’s now working with international players, which wasn’t the case before and I think that shows the level of trust the board have had in him, so Rangers will need to deliver this season.”

After a spell of nearly ten years without a major trophy in Scottish football, Boyd knows that this season is make or break for the Ibrox side and that silverware is a must. But he’s backing the Gers to end the trophy-barren spell if they can continue their run of form.

“It’s always difficult to say if the improvement will land you silverware,” he said. “I think there’s a belief that they can. The performances have shown that.

“Defensively they look solid and they’ve obviously worked on that a lot this season. It’s an organised unit at Rangers right now that moves all over the pitch. From the front forwards back to the defence it’s a unit working together.

“The biggest improvement this season has been when they’ve not got the ball, but there’s a freedom to go on and play which we’ve seen with Ryan Kent.

“With James Tavernier and Connor Goldson, they look solid defensively. When you can keep clean sheets at the rate which Rangers have kept them then they’ll be looking at it thinking that this is their best opportunity to go and deliver silverware this season.”

The core spine of Rangers’ squad is what has impressed Boyd, naming some of his former teammates such as Allan McGregor and Steven Davis, amongst others, as individuals who have been important in their progress.

“Allan McGregor – you need that goalkeeper behind you that is going to make big saves and he’s done that,” he said. “As well as Tavernier and Goldson, one that has impressed me has been Filip Helander. He’s improved the (defensive) partnership there.

“Steven Davis is a Rolls Royce of a player. Look at the number of international caps and what he’s done in international football. Ryan Kent and Joe Aribo too (have impressed).

“You can go on and on. There’s been a lot of improvements, but it’ll be the end of the season when they’re judged. Until they win silverware, they need to put that to bed. There’s been a lot of impressive performances, but it’s still early doors.”

The question every Scottish football fan asks this this season is: ‘can Rangers stop Celtic from winning 10 in a row?’

Boyd sees no reason why his former side can’t, but knows the Hoops have the potential to go on a run like they did last year.

“I don’t see why not,” he said. “Last year, the wheels fell off in the second part of the season, but I think what gets overlooked is Celtic’s performances in the second part of the season as well. They went on an unbelievable unbeaten run and getting two strikers in there was a good combination.

“But there’s a genuine belief this season that both of them are going to go neck and neck until the end of the season, but Rangers will fancy their chances.

“If they can get through the group stages it’s a bonus. It’s not the be all and end all, but you always want to be against the best teams and being in the Europa League has given Celtic and Rangers that opportunity.

“Make no mistake about it, Rangers’ most important thing this season is the league. They need to deliver the title and stop Celtic’s dominance in Scottish football. It’s great to be have these European nights, but the most important thing from Rangers’ point of view is winning the league and stopping Celtic.”

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