A LITTLE over a year ago Rangers sent out an SOS for Alfredo Morelos to rescue their Champions League dream and the message is eerily similar 12 months later.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men have a mountain to climb if they’re to progress to the Playoff round where PSV or AS Monaco lie in wait after a disastrous 2-0 defeat to Union Saint-Gilloise on Tuesday evening.

Morelos hasn’t kicked a ball for the club since suffering a thigh injury at Dens Park back in March but it looks certain he will lead the line against the Belgians at Ibrox in five days' time.

Speaking after watching his team get battered by Union, van Bronckhorst was quizzed on whether the Colombian will return for the second leg. He responded: “Yeah I think that is realistic.

“He has been training with us for quite some time and he is getting better and sharper every day. We also have him in the UEFA list for this round so hopefully, he will continue and he will be there next week.”

Van Bronckhorst’s words indicate he is desperate for him to return to action as soon as possible and it’s no surprise given the lack of potency in attack.

In all honesty, Rangers have struggled to find someone who they can rely upon in Morelos’ absence since he joined the club from HJK Helsinki back in the summer of 2017.

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It makes last year’s run to the Europa League final all the more remarkable given the Colombian was so pivotal and deadly in said competition.

Antonio Colak has been the man trusted to fill the void in his absence but the Croatian simply doesn’t offer the physical presence and ability to create opportunities out of lost nothing quite like Morelos does.

The summer signing from PAOK Salonika has come in for a bit of criticism from certain quarters. including Light Blues legend Mark Hateley.

Speaking on BBC Scotland, Hateley said: “Colak, for me, was a waste of time. If Morelos is playing there, the ball goes into him. Colak didn’t demand the ball.”

Those are damning words and perhaps slightly unfair given he’s just in the door and was starved of service on Tuesday night. He will get goals, as we have seen against Tottenham and at Livingston. If he is presented with chances in front of goal, more often than not, he is likely to take them.

However, the return of Morelos will inevitably see him demoted to the bench and it’ll therefore be a question as to whether he is able to take his opportunities when they arise.

But just how sharp Morelos is, remains to be seen. As we witnessed against Malmo last season, he made an immediate impact before fading rapidly due to a lack of game time. Who’s to say that won’t be the same scenario that unfolds next week?

He will give his teammates and supporters a huge lift by his sheer presence but it’s unfair to expect him to be the slayer of Union on his own. Other players need to step up to the plate and going by the display in Leuven, that applies to absolutely everyone.

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Of course, Kilmarnock will need to be taken care of first when Derek McInnes' men visit Ibrox on Saturday before the Champions League rescue mission can get underway. The Premiership clash would provide the perfect opportunity to give Morelos minutes in the legs heading into the second leg.

Whether that’s as a starter or coming off the bench, if he’s ready to play he simply has to.

As well as Morelos, it’s important Ryan Kent returns to the starting XI. He was badly missed against Union and having spoken with a number of Belgian journalists prior to the game, they were relieved when news broke that he would be missing the first leg. His performances in Europe, particularly last season, haven’t gone unnoticed.

Kent, like Morelos, has the ability to tear some of the meanest defences to bits and make experienced defenders look silly so having the pair of them available will be huge if Rangers are to have any chance of progressing.