Rangers midfielder Lassana Coulibaly has the chance to truly endear himself to the Ibrox faithful on Thursday.
The French dynamo, on loan from Angers, has started extremely brightly for the Scottish giants.
He’s only made a handful of appearances so far after spending a month on the sidelines recovering from a hamstring injury, but he’s looked like Steven Gerrard’s shrewdest summer acquisition of them all.
Coulibaly returned to action in the 4-0 victory over Dundee, marking the occasion with a goal – his second for the club since joining.
It was a great display once again from the Malian, who reminded everyone just how much better the side is with him in it.
Villarreal game a huge chance for adulation
Coulibaly’s return to fitness is timely, with the Gers gearing up for the start of their Europa League campaign.
First up for the Light Blues is Villarreal away, and it’s going to be a tough game Gerrard and co.
The Spanish side finished fifth in La Liga last term, and have some quality players within their ranks.
Ones to watch include ex-Arsenal maestro Santi Cazorla, midfielder Manuel Trigueros, and strike duo Carlos Bacca and Gerard Moreno.
With Ryan Jack and Ovie Ejaria ruled out of the clash with injury (as reported by The Scotsman), it’s a massive game for Coulibaly, and a chance for him to further endear himself to the Rangers supporters.
A good performance in Europe for Coulibaly will prompt adulation for the 22-year-old. There’s no reason why he can’t excel at Estadio de la Cerámica, despite the absence of Jack and Ejaria.
Coulibaly brings that steel
Rangers’ ability to get something from this tricky game may hinge on how Coulibaly fares in the engine room.
He needs to show that bite and aggression the fans love him for.
It’s on him to break up the Spaniards’ rhythm and then drive the team forwards.
It’s a blow that he won’t have Jack and Ejaria besides him – and that’s why he’ll be lauded if he can play well and the team nick a result.