The Rangers goalkeeper Stefan Klos has warned his team-mates that they have plenty of work left to ensure they are still in Europe beyond Christmas.
The Glasgow side were eliminated from the Champions' League with Wednesday's 1-0 defeat by Stuttgart. They must earn at least a point against Panathinaikos on 9 December to ensure a place in the Uefa Cup third round in February.
Klos has voiced concern that the Greek Group E whipping-boys, who have just one point from the campaign - ironically earned at home against Rangers - could pull off a shock result in Glasgow.
"That has to be our big target now, to make sure we get into the Uefa Cup," he said. "We need to have European football after Christmas, it's just vital for the whole club. But Panathinaikos still have a big prize to go for as well, so we have to play very well to make sure we get the draw we need.
"It's a home game, but I still think it will be very tough for us and we need to produce a good performance."
Klos has seen the club fail three times to get beyond the first group stage during his Ibrox career and was left to deliver another disappointing verdict this year.
He said: "We have had a few attempts at getting through the groups in my time, and, you have to say, we are not good enough. You can't say we have been unlucky, we lost three games in a row and that says it all. Rangers are going to have to work very hard to improve in Europe, and the Uefa Cup now has to be our aim."
The Rangers manager, Alex McLeish, added: "As usual, we are doing things the hard way. Panathinaikos still have a target as well and if we had taken something from the Stuttgart game that would have been a formality given the score in Athens."
When Panathinaikos visit, Rangers are likely to be without their captain, Craig Moore, Ronald de Boer and the midfielder Christian Nerlinger, who all have long-term injuries. The striker Steven Thompson is weeks away from a comeback after knee reconstruction surgery so only Mikel Arteta, who suffered a leg muscle injury against Aberdeen on Saturday, can be confident of a timely return.
McLeish believes the injury toll was a major factor in a campaign which started brightly, with a win and a draw, before becoming stalled on four points three games later. "To compete at this level you need to have all your best players available. We didn't and that has certainly been a factor in amassing the points we have so far."
Meanwhile, a leading business analyst insists that Rangers' exit from the Champions' League will not harm their financial prospects this year. The club recorded a £68m debt in September, but David Glen, of PriceWaterhouse-Coopers has allayed fans' fears that going out could affect finances further.
He said: "The next round of the Champions' League is probably not as lucrative as it was in the past because it has changed to a knockout format.
"So qualification for the second stage may just be the same as another round for the Uefa Cup.
"They have at least got what they expected this year and I doubt they will have budgeted for anything beyond that. Anything in the Uefa Cup now will be a bonus for the club.
"Contrast it with not qualifying for the Champions' League and you are then talking about real problems. But, after the group stages, getting knocked out is not as significant as missing out altogether."Reuse content