RANGERS head coach Malky Thomson says it would be an unprecedented feat if his European rookies could make it into the women’s Champions League group stage at the first attempt. To do so they must overcome a 3-2 defeat at Ibrox last Tuesday when they meet Benfica in tonight’s second leg.

It’s a tough assignment for Rangers, who will again be without first-choice central defenders Kathryn Hill and Lisa Martinez against a side who boast strong attacking players from Brazil and Canada as well as Portuguese internationalists. Tessel Middag, normally a midfielder, and Lisa Martinez are again expected to stand in.

“Reaching the group stage would be something that’s probably never been done by a new team,” Thomson pointed out. “It would be special, but whatever happens it will grow the team for the future.

“Progressing and getting through the first (mini-tournament) stage gave us a belief. We have no fear about the tie – we believe in ourselves and if we have the majority of the squad playing to our capabilities, we can get a result.

“But against Benfica we’re going to need nine-ten players all firing at the one time. We’re looking forward to the tie.”

The National: Rachel McLauchlan in action against BenficaRachel McLauchlan in action against Benfica (Image: SNS)

Right-back Rachel McLauchlan, unlike most of her team-mates, has had high-level Champions League experience at her previous club, Glasgow City. That included a quarter-final tie against Wolfsburg before Uefa introduced a group stage for the women’s competition. It didn’t go well for City, who lost 9-1 in a

one-off game in 2020, but

there were mitigating circumstances as the German league had resumed following the start of the pandemic, whereas the then Scottish champions went into the

tie cold.

“We know Benfica’s strengths and it’s not going to be an easy game, but I’ve got every belief that we can try and get a result,” the Scotland

defender said.