By Callum O'Connell

17th Sep, 2023 | 5:10pm

Hector Bellerin praises 'special' Rangers atmosphere ahead of Europa League clash

Real Betis full-back Hector Bellerin has admitted he sees Rangers as favourites to qualify from their group and has praised the “special” Ibrox atmosphere ahead of their Europa League clash.

Bellerin admitted facing Gers would be a tough test for Betis, after they lost 5-0 to Barcelona on 16 September, but expressed their intention to compete strongly and not suffer another loss.

The former Arsenal defender also expressed his relief that ex-Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos, the club’s all-time top European goalscorer, would not be involved after leaving Ibrox over the summer transfer window.

Speaking during a press conference on 16 September, as reported by Football Scotland, Bellerin addressed the Rangers clash, admitting: “I know Scottish football from my time at Arsenal and Rangers deserve their place as top seeds in this group.

“From the day of the draw, I had Rangers and us as favourites to go through.

“It will be between us. Rangers are never an easy opponent. They have good players but it’s great Morelos is no longer at the club.

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“The atmosphere in Glasgow is special but it won’t affect our game. Rangers are a Champions League club but they just missed out. They have that quality so it’s a warning.

“We don’t intend to fail and our plan is not to suffer a defeat in Glasgow. We have an excellent squad and expect to challenge in every competition we play in.”

Time for Rangers to step up

Bellerin’s comments will certainly be viewed as positive at Ibrox, but the club can’t let their reputation proceed them. They will have to show up with a strong performance to get a result, with every game in Europe more difficult than it may seem, regardless of the form of their opponents.

It shows once again the potential in the club when they are so revered by opponents that have faced them in the past, with the famous Ibrox atmosphere clearly leaving its mark on the former Arsenal man.

Despite a difficult start to the season, success in their opening Europa League match could provide a platform for Rangers to push ahead with their season and their intentions to be competitive across every competition they are involved in.

The Betis defender’s praise for the club should also be taken with a pinch of salt. While the words seem genuine, it does show their opponents will be aware of their strengths and could step up their game when they face Rangers at Ibrox.

In other Rangers news, Gary Keown has criticised the SPFL after £127m news emerged from Europe.