Michael Beale completed an unwanted hat-trick of press conference confirmations ahead of the visit of Real Betis. It was a case of another day, another injury blow for Rangers.

Last Friday morning, Beale revealed that Todd Cantwell and Kieran Dowell had been ruled out of action for the foreseeable future. Just 24 hours later, the Englishman had to come to terms with the loss of Danilo following his head knock against St Johnstone. And now it is midfielder Nicolas Raskin that Beale must do without, starting with the clash against Real Betis.

The task of overcoming Manuel Pellegrini’s side was always going to be a hugely trying and testing one for Rangers, even if Beale had a full squad to choose from. He can now only hope there are not more significant ramifications after he spoke on the eve of the Group C opener.

Injury curse strikes once again

Raskin was a notable absentee from the group that Beale put through their paces on Wednesday morning. The question regarding his status was the first of the media conference and it was the news that supporters would have dreaded.

“Nico is out until after the international break with a calf problem,” Beale said as he labelled the Belgian ‘one of our strongest performers’ in the 2-0 win at McDiarmid Park. “He took a kick in the game and afterwards it has given him a problem in his muscle.”

The update on Dowell was positive, at least, and he is due to return around the Viaplay Cup fixture with Livingston next midweek, or perhaps the visit of Aberdeen. It will, in all likelihood, be the Hibernian game before Cantwell is seen again, however.

READ MORE: Inside the story of Pellegrini and Real Betis ahead of Rangers fixture

A spate of injuries undermined Giovanni van Bronckhorst throughout the first months of last season as the Dutchman was left with a group that wasn’t fit for purpose. Beale cannot afford for history to repeat itself and a similar fate to befall him given the situation that Rangers are in at present.

Beale pinpointed the likes of Bailey Rice and Zak Lovelace as two of the Academy kids who might have the opportunity ‘to step up in domestic games’ but losing four members of his first team squad could not have come at a worse time for the Ibrox boss.

Rangers also have fixtures with Motherwell, St Mirren and Aris to come during this tranche of matches. Each one is a must-win and Beale needs others in his squad to step up and assert themselves.

Time for Cifuentes to shine

That is certainly the case when it comes to Jose Cifuentes. The midfielder has made a steady if unspectacular start to his Rangers career and his seventh appearance since his move from Los Angeles FC could prove to be his most significant.

The Ecuadorian seems certain to start – most likely alongside Ryan Jack and John Lundstram – against the La Liga side. Beale has previously spoken about Cifuentes having the ability to take Rangers to the next level and a fine individual showing at Ibrox would certainly help convince supporters that such faith is not unfounded.

“He came in very late,” Beale said when asked if Raskin’s absence was a chance for Cifuentes to get a few games under his belt. “In the first couple of games he did some really good things. He produced a fantastic cross against Servette that should have been an assist and had one against Livingston where the defender has made a fantastic block against Cyriel, so he’s been unfortunate in that regard.

“He’s been away on international duty, so this is his moment. He’s been here for a while now. I said recently that the new players have been here long enough now. He was the last one to come in and now I think he’s ready to go.”

Given the transition that Cifuentes has had to make in recent weeks, it was only fair that he was given some leeway by a demanding support. Beale has to call on him now, though, and the 24-year-old has the ideal opportunity to make his mark at home and abroad.

Europa League expectations set

The last fixture that Rangers played in this tournament was the ultimate case of so near yet so far. That night in Seville is still remembered in so many contrasting ways and those that savoured the remarkable run to the final can only dare to dream of a repeat sooner rather than later.

Beale dismissed the notion that Rangers would carry an extra burden on their shoulders in terms of adding points to the UEFA co-efficient. He insisted he wanted all of the Premiership representatives to do well on the continent but stated that ‘we’re not doing it for Scotland, we’re doing it for Rangers. It’s important we do it for our club.’

Beale will certainly not underestimate a Betis side that have shown their pedigree in recent seasons and he highlighted their win over Roma last term as proof of their capabilities at this level. He discounted the 5-0 defeat to Barcelona at the weekend and instead focused on the matches with Atletico Madrid and Villarreal.

READ MORE: Danilo must be Rangers first pick, he'll prove transfer - Chris Jack

As the Pot One side, there is rightly an expectation that Rangers qualify for the next round. Beale certainly has that ambition after seeing the club re-establish themselves over the last four or five seasons and a win over Betis would be a real statement.

“It would be a big boost for the squad, the staff and the fans,” Beale said. “I think what’s most important is that we go and take the game and play with energy and quality. We are up against a very good team."

Beale believes that the section will go down to at least the penultimate round of fixtures for every side in Group C. It is set to be an exciting campaign for Rangers. Beale also needs it to be a successful one.

Ibrox factor will come into play

The visit of Betis will be the first home outing since Rangers suffered the costly Old Firm defeat that left them four points adrift of Celtic in the Premiership title race. The reaction that day told the full story of what the result meant and what the support thought of Beale and his side.

The passing of time has not healed those wounds and Rangers still have plenty of questions to answer despite Danilo and Rabbi Matondo earning them a comfortable win over St Johnstone.

These European occasions have provided some wonderful memories for players and punters alike in recent seasons and Beale needs the home crowd to be the 12th man at Ibrox. Of all the factors he has to consider, that should not be a worry.

“I think they’ll be behind the team,” Beale said. “They show that every week. They support us. I thought they were excellent at St Johnstone at the weekend.

"They clapped the team off and I think they want to see their team go after Real Betis. We will do that as best as we can.”

That approach does, of course, come with a degree of risk and the home crowd will need to be patient at times as Pellegrini’s side – who will be orchestrated by playmaker Isco – look to control the flow and tempo of the game. If Rangers can do that, they will give themselves a real chance of earning a positive result.

This is an encounter that Beale has been looking forward to since the draw was made. Now he needs a performance and a result to match the occasion.

Matondo dreaming of European highs

Beale has set the target of progressing out of the group ahead of Aris and Sparta Prague. If that can be achieved, who knows where Rangers will end up in a competition that they have excelled in so often in recent times?

Another run to the final seems unlikely and Beale’s side will take it on a game-by-game basis. Yet Matondo is one who will be inspired by the chance of an extended European run.

He revealed that he had questioned his new team-mates about the Seville season when he joined the club and he is fully aware of the expectations from a demanding crowd.

READ MORE: Can Rabbi Matondo make Rangers grade? Analysing winger with ex-coach

Few would have predicted that he would be on the brink of a start in a group stage fixture during a summer of uncertainty over his future, but the winger has earned his shot and is eager to write his own chapters at Ibrox.

“I think for the boys who were involved in that run, it is going to motivate them and push them because they know what it was like,” Matondo said. “I don’t know what it was like to get to that stage in Europe.

“But ultimately it is game by game. We have to look at the game in front of us, which is Betis. We know they are a good side so we have to try and beat them first. Ultimately, we are always going to play every game to win, so we will just see where can go from there.”