Motherwell fans have recently been revelling in our success on the pitch and the potential of the Well Society of it, but it is fair to say everyone has been keeping an eye on Rangers as well. Things became just a little more exciting on Wednesday. As Barcelona and Messi were slicing through Bayer Leverkusen at will, the realisation was beginning to dawn that maybe, just maybe, this could be us in August. Not taking on Barcelona obviously – that would stretch fantasy too far – but taking part in the Champions League; entering the same tournament as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester United. A rare sight! The administrators at Rangers have indicated they do not believe they will meet the licensing deadlines required to compete in Europe next season and that huge cuts could be made to the playing squad within days. Whether it is by default, or by overhauling a ghost Rangers team for second place, we are currently favourites for the place even if we cannot take either scenario for granted. For the players, it is probably best not to be distracted by imagining what could be achieved and instead focus on maintaining their current form. The board have no choice but to look ahead though – we would enter at the third qualifying round and Fir Park would need to meet the criteria of a category three stadium if we were to host the tie in Motherwell. The requirements are available here and may well be giving Leeann Dempster nightmares. As for future opponents, that is very easy to follow. We will be unseeded and though it is not certain who the seeded teams will be, it is likely a potential opponent will be the third placed Portuguese team, or the runner-up from Russia, Ukraine, Holland or Turkey. Presently that would be Braga, CSKA Moscow, Shaktar Donetsk, FC Twente or Fenerbahce though it is far from impossible a more 'romantic' club such as Benfica, Dynamo Moscow, Dynamo Kiev or Ajax could make it. It does seem certain that the Turkish representative will come from Istanbul while it would be a surprise if the Russian team is not from Moscow. Any of these teams would provide Motherwell fans with a trip well worth making but it is worth remembering the difference between Barca and Bayer is probably not as great as between ourselves and, say, Benfica – current Champions League quarter finalists. Humiliation could await though that did not seem to bother the Leverkusen fans in Spain who spent the second half singing and humba-ing for their own amusement before the reward of a late consolation.
The more grounded bonus from Rangers not making Europe is that we are surely guaranteed entry to the Europa League. That must always be considered success for us and if we're in that competition – either immediately or by dropping down from the Champions League – we should make sure we enjoy it!