The Europa League opportunity has been missed and the dream has ended. Now the Premiership chance must be seized if the main ambition is to be achieved by Rangers this term.

Defeat to Benfica on Thursday evening was not a setback that should derail Philippe Clement’s side and there was certainly no shame in being eliminated at the last 16 stage by an outfit that are bidding for a Primeira Liga title and Champions League return. It did, though, come with mixed emotions for Rangers. This was a tie that they were not expected to win but it was one that they could easily have progressed from.

That in itself says much about where Rangers are, and where they have come from, under Clement’s guidance. It is, of course, more important where they are heading. Such is the unique situation that Rangers find themselves in at present, it can be stated without fear that the fixture with Dundee carries more significance and more pressure than the visit of one of the finest teams in the Europa League.

Victory over Benfica would have made headlines and earned prizemoney. A win at Dens Park will make a statement and shape fortunes in a different way and it is now all about the reaction from Rangers. Clement vowed to raise any heads that were still down at Auchenhowie on Friday morning and the Belgian will not allow a sense of frustration to linger amongst a squad who must quickly regroup and refocus.

The loss to Benfica can be pinpointed to the defensive lapse that allowed Rafa Silva to score the only goal of the game. The more pressing concern was at the other end of the pitch, however, and Rangers did not have the quality to be clinical in the moments that mattered most. Cyriel Dessers must take his share of the burden in that regard but the striker believes the positives outweigh the negatives overall after the journey to Dublin was ended on home soil.

“Definitely,” Dessers said when asked if Rangers could take confidence from their growth under Clement. “I think we can be really proud of this performance against a really big team in Europe. This is normally a team that plays knockout stage in the Champions League, if you look at them they have World Champions in their team. If you see what we showed… obviously it hurts but this has to give us confidence as well and this has to be something that we build on for the last two-and-a-half months this season.

“This has to give us confidence. If you can show this against one of the best teams in Europe, in this stage, in a must-win game, if we can bring this level, this energy, this power into the league games and the cup games then I think we can have a really beautiful ending of the season.”

If that is to be the case, then a victory at Dens Park on Sunday would be more than helpful for Rangers. Their last Premiership outing saw Motherwell throw a spanner in the works at Ibrox before Celtic blew the chance to capitalise by losing against Hearts the following day. The title race will, no doubt, have many more twists and turns to come.

Clement’s side eased to an emphatic 5-0 win on their last trip to Tayside. It was a dramatic evening all round as the Rangers team bus was delayed and the match was halted as a result of a pyrotechnics show in the away end. A more straightforward occasion would surely be welcomed by Clement this time around, as would a repeat of the performance and result.

“Don’t expect an easy game, but there are not a lot of easy games in Scotland as well,” Dessers said. “We have to bounce back and we have a team that has experience of this, who can handle this. If we take the positives out of this game and go again I think we will bounce back as well.

“It is a mixed feeling. On one side you are proud, on the other side it feels sour. But there is a lot to play for this season and we have to keep going, starting on Sunday with a massive game so we can go into the international break with a good feeling.”

Rangers will return from that break with four fixtures to negotiate before the top flight split signals the start of the sprint to the finish. Hibernian and Celtic visit Ibrox ahead of the journey to Ross County and Scottish Cup semi-final with Hearts. By the middle of next month, talk of a treble could be on the lips of every supporter.

There will be no European run to coincide with the bid for domestic dominance. Given the injury situation that Clement is dealing with at present, that is perhaps a blessing in disguise. The Belgian has never seen it that way and the feeling that Benfica were there to be beaten was palpable amongst his players.

“Yeah, definitely,” Dessers said when asked if it was a missed opportunity against Benfica. “It hurts because it was possible, everybody felt it. I think we were most parts of the game we were dominant, we let them run behind the ball, which they are not used to. It feels a little bit sour but I think overall it was a performance that we can be proud of.

“We were pretty dominant but most of the time it just wasn’t there and it was a few centimetres. For example, my chance in the beginning of the second half, I think I did good work to get past Otamendi and then there was a toe in between. These things, some passes in the first half just not there. That makes a difference. It is fine margins but those are the difference in this stage of the competition and that is maybe the only thing that we can say, that we should have got more big chances with the game we had.”