RANGERS under-19s will play Spartak Moscow home and away and travel to face Rapid Vienna as, once again, they test themselves against some of Europe’s best young talent.
Following the highly successful Games Programme last season, Gers will also face Hamburg, Larne’s first-team, Falkirk’s first-team and Middlesbrough between now and Christmas in addition to two of the first-team’s Europa League opponents.
The Reserve League, which Gers lead having won four of their opening five fixtures, also continues, while the Glasgow Cup, which is now an under-20’s tournament, begins with a trip to face Partick Thistle on November 26.
It’s certainly an exciting time coming up, with Head of Academy Craig Mulholland commenting: “We are pleased to confirm our games programme for the Reserve / U19 group between now and Christmas. Having re-joined the SPFL Reserve League after last year’s innovative European Games programme, we rejected the opportunity to enter the Reserve League Cup to ensure we left sufficient dates to continue the cross border ‘best v best’ challenge for the excellent talent that we have in this group.
“We are currently compiling the final analysis report from last year’s European experience and there has been some clear beneficial outcomes which meant it was absolutely critical to our strategy that this remained a fundamental part of our programme. For example it appears when we compare sprint distance covered domestically against the European games programme the difference can be as much as 22%, while high intensity distance covered can be as much as 16%.
“These are significant differences and demonstrate the levels our players must hit to achieve the wins they did against the likes of Bayern Munich, Benfica, Villarreal, Valencia, Copenhagen, Club Brugge, etc.
“We must therefore continue to push these young Scottish lads to these levels, higher than any generation before them have done domestically and only then will we significantly improve the quality of player we produce in this country.
“Another key difference was that in season 2016/17 in Scotland we only played against six formations in the whole season, and in the majority of games it was against a 4-2-3-1 with the patterns and principles consistent throughout the opposition. Last year in the European Games Programme we played against 10 different formations, with so many different patterns, player behaviours and technical trends to deal with that the learning for our young players was taken to a level we would not achieved with only domestic competition.
“Glenn Middleton who played so well in Villarreal for the first team last week made his Academy debut in Spain against a La Liga team in a victory over Valencia.
“There is no doubt playing the best Spanish, Dutch, English, German and Belgian players last year has better prepared Glenn for the challenge he faced last week. We can’t leave this preparation to chance it must be done by design. This is why it was so important that these challenges were continued in this year’s Games Programme.
“In keeping with the innovation and drive being demonstrated at all levels of the club just now, Rangers put a proposal to our Europa League opponents to create a group section for our U19’s. Unfortunately Villarreal could not participate but we have agreed to an away fixture with Rapid Vienna and a double header with Spartak on the same day as the first team fixture which will be played as a two leg European tie with an aggregate score and the away goal rule applying. It is this kind of different and modern thinking being driven by Rangers which will change the quality of player available to the Manager.
“We believe the programme provides a good mix of domestic competition, cross border ‘best v best’ European Challenge matches against men’s first teams and when combined with our loans strategy, where we currently have seven out gaining first team experience, we are now much more able to manage the individual needs of every player.
“We will also continue to lead the push at the SPFL for the creation of a Rangers ‘B’ Team who can play in the lower leagues of Scottish Football. It will be an exciting and exceptionally busy few months ahead in Rangers Academy.”
Rangers Reserve/U19 Fixtures
02/10/2018 – Hamburg (A) – 1.30pm
17/10/2018 – Larne 1st Team (A) – 7.30pm
21/10/2018 – Falkirk (David Hagen Benefit Match (A)) – 4pm
25/10/2018 – Spartak Moscow (H) – 2pm
29/10/2018 – Aberdeen Reserves (A) – 2pm
05/11/2018 – Middlesbrough (A) – 2pm
08/11/2018 – Spartak Moscow (A) – KO TBC
26/11/2018 – Partick Thistle Reserves (A) – 2pm
03/12/2018 – Kilmarnock Reserves (H) – 2pm
13/12/2018 – Rapid Vienna (A) – KO TBC
17/12/2018 – Hearts Reserves (A) – 2pm