RANGERS have suffered one knock-out blow already this season and now the clock is ticking the start of the second round of their campaign. Pedro Caixinha’s side must come out fighting if they are to convince the Light Blue legions they have a silverware challenge in them this term and the next few weeks are vital for the Portuguese as he finalises his preparations for the Premiership.

The defeat to Progres Niederkorn raised many questions and brought doubts to the fore once again at Ibrox. Here, SportTimes looks at what Caixinha needs to address between now and the trip to Motherwell on Sunday, August 6 as Rangers look to pick themselves off the canvas this summer.

1. Games

If all had gone to plan against Progres, Rangers would be preparing for the return leg of their second round qualifier against AEL Limassol rather than looking three weeks down the line to the league opener at Fir Park.

The early Euro exit denied the Gers a financial boost but also cost them vital match time and left them with a gap in their schedule.

Bounce games against TNS, Coleraine and St Johnstone didn’t prove to be adequate warm-up for the Niederkorn tie and Rangers need a couple of challenging friendly fixtures between now and the league opener to get up to speed in terms of fitness and sharpness.

Caixinha’s side took on Kilmarnock at Auchenhowie earlier this week and confirmed that they will head to Hillsborough on Sunday, July 30 to face Championship promotion hopefuls Sheffield Wednesday.

That will be a tough test for the Light Blues and will undoubtedly stand them in good stead, as will the glamour friendly with Marseille in seven days time. 

2. Squad

With so many new faces in the Gers changing room, it will take time for a team spirit and an understanding on and off the park to be formed.

The language barrier could prove problematic for some of Caixinha’s summer recruits and he must find a way of settling his signings into life at Ibrox as quickly as possible.

The defeat to Progres was a significant blow for a newly assembled squad to take and while it won’t be forgotten, Rangers have to move on and look forward.

Caixinha has spoken of the importance of having a handful of captains in his ranks and the likes of Lee Wallace, Bruno Alves, Niko Kranjcar and Kenny Miller will be vital figures in the coming weeks.

3. Transfers

The arrival of nine players so far this summer means Caixinha is only searching for the final pieces of the jigsaw now.

Moves have been made for Jamie Walker and Kenny McLean but no deals have been done yet. Rangers have their valuations of the players, while Hearts and Aberdeen have their own figures in mind.

Having sold Barrie McKay to Nottingham Forest, the swoop for Walker appears to be a more pressing matter for Rangers and the winger would undoubtedly be a valuable asset to the Gers attack.

Caixinha doesn’t need to rush in but ideally he would get his business completed sooner rather than later heading into the league campaign.

The Portuguese will also be keen to further clear the decks and remove some of the deadwood from his squad if possible.

A handful of players have no future at Ibrox and Rangers can do without them lingering around the first team while they ponder their next move.

4. Selection

The Light Blues squad has Caixinha’s stamp on it following a busy summer of ins and outs and now the 46-year-old must put a winning team on the park.

Some signings – such as Alves and Graham Dorrans – seem sure starters against the Steelmen but Caixinha has plenty of options in certain areas.

Finding his best his midfield two or three could give him the biggest headache but it is a welcome problem to have with Ryan Jack, Jordan Rossiter, Carlos Pena and Kranjcar all pushing for a spot.

The back five seemingly picks itself and it would be a surprise if Wes Foderingham, James Tavernier, Fabio Cardoso and Wallace don’t line up at Fir Park.

At the other end of the park, Miller remains the most reliable option and Caixinha must find the right balance in the final third, with summer signings Dalcio and Daniel Candeias on the wings and central pair Alfredo Morelos and Eduardo Herrera looking to get off to a flying start on league duty.

5. Fans

There were many sceptics in the Ibrox crowd when Caixinha was appointed in March and the former Al-Gharafa boss hasn’t done enough so far to silence his critics.

The successive Old Firm defeats, especially the 5-1 hammering at home, and loss to Aberdeen were significant black marks on his CV last term and the embarrassing exit to Progres has piled further pressure on his shoulders.

Caixinha took full responsibility for the horror show in the Stade Josy Barthel but his next messages will be crucial as he attempts to win over the doubters. His actions will speak the loudest, but his words are important.