PLAYING in the knockout rounds of a European competition during the second half of a season can often have an adverse impact on a club’s domestic ambitions – particularly when their main rival for silverware at home is not involved on the continent.

Yet, Philippe Clement, whose Rangers team can progress in the Europa League if they beat Aris Limassol in their penultimate group game at Ibrox this evening or secure a place in the Conference League knockout round play-off if they draw with their Cypriot opponents, is quite unfazed by the prospect of fighting on two fronts.

Celtic will be able to focus fully on retaining their cinch Premiership title and lifting the Scottish Cup for the second season running when they return to action after the winter break in January due to the defeat they suffered earlier this week.

The Parkhead club were consigned to bottom spot in their Champions League section when they were beaten 2-0 by their Italian opponents Lazio in Rome on Tuesday night and can not now drop into the second tier tournament after Christmas.

But Clement is, despite still not knowing if he has the strength in depth which he needs to compete both at home and abroad at the same time in his squad, desperate for Rangers to go through. He has told his players he expects them to be of exactly the same mindset. 

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“I want ambitious people in the building,” he said. “I want to create winners. And winners are, for me, people who always want to win. Not one competition or two. They want to win everything they do, they want to win in training. 

“I cannot put priorities into one competition because then I don’t create winners. So, that’s the thing for tomorrow. You have to go into the game full tilt and knowing that if you win that you take the next step. 

“Being in Europe after January is an important thing for the club, for the players also. Everybody likes to play with all Europe watching these games. As a club, it’s also important to have good European results because it adds stature to your club. 

“You can win against Barcelona in one game then three days later, if you don’t have the right mentality, you can lose to Ross County. That’s also football. It doesn’t give guarantees, but of course those are good experiences. And we need to try and get that rhythm of playing in Europe also into your domestic games.”

Rangers Review: Asked if he felt he had enough options in every position to compete in Europe and challenge for the Premiership and Scottish Cup after Christmas, Clement said: “How long have I been here now? Five weeks? It is still five weeks at least until January. So I am only halfway on the journey to really make good decisions around that.

“There are a few players that I didn’t even see yet on the pitch to play games or who have trained two or three times in the five weeks. To make a clear opinion about all the squad, it is not realistic to do it now for the moment.

“Of course, we have ideas and we have talked about that and we are looking at things as a club because there is also an imbalance to the squad, in some positions we have a lot of players and in others some not. Those are things to look towards for January. The rest it is going to be very interesting in the next five weeks how all the players will perform.

“Of course, if you can qualify with still one game to play that is a big thing. There are not many teams in Europe who can already qualify so that is a big thing if you can do that. We still have two games to do it. We are going to grab it with two hands to try to do it tomorrow evening. With three hands actually, because I expect the hand of the fans also.”

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Clement will not be able to call on Leon Balogun and Ridvan Yilmaz tonight because the defensive duo were omitted from the European squad by his predecessor Michael Beale. Elsewhere, Ryan Jack, Nicolas Raskin and Kemar Roofe are still sidelined and Scott Wright is a doubt due to illness and a muscular problem.

It is no surprise, then, that the Belgian is not taking victory over Aris, who recorded a 2-1 win over Rangers at their Alphamega Stadium last month when midfielder Steven Davis was in temporary charge, for granted. He is wary of the “chaos” which the visitors create when they attack and knows that another bad result is possible if his understrength side is not at its best.

“It’s a tough challenge because it’s a difficult team,” he said. “They attack with a lot of numbers. They have a lot of speed and have several players who with one action can decide the game. They play in a way that is less predictable than other teams because the attacking part is more chaotic, more based on individual qualities than collective things.

“So we need to play a really good, organised game. I won’t say a defensive game, but we have to be really smart in all situations. If we attack and they keep six players up front, we cannot go with seven players, because then it’s six against three. So it’s important to a good balance in the team again.”

Rangers Review: Clement continued: “Of course I looked back to the last game. It’s always interesting to see how the players reacted and what they did. I also asked them what the instructions were for that game. We want to do a few things different from that game, that is clear.

“But I don’t want them to think about the last game because that can create some negativity in your head. I want them to continue what they have been doing until now. In a lot of moments that has been really good.

“In Aberdeen (Rangers were held to 1-1 draw at Pittodrie on Sunday) the first 15 minutes were not good. But we had a really good meeting around that. With that we will make our story strong and stronger in the next couple of weeks and for sure in the next couple of months. That is the normal way in football.”