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  1. Rangers will be able to call on reprieved Jon Flanagan in their Scottish Premiership finale at Kilmarnock on Sunday. The former Liverpool defender was cited by the Scottish Football Association after a post-match video consultation suggested he had elbowed Celtic's Scott Brown during Sunday's Old Firm game. But it was confirmed on Friday afternoon that Rangers had won their appeal over the retrospective red card. Celtic might be on track for another treble but Gers have struck upon a winning formula since their Old Firm defeat at Parkhead, with last weekend's derby triumph their sixth in a row. "I've just been told we've never had a clean sweep of wins after the split so that is a good incentive for us," Gers assistant boss McAllister, speaking in place of boss Steven Gerrard, said. "We're on a good run so it will be nice to finish on a high and have that buoyancy for next season." Kilmarnock are looking to cap a fine season by sealing third spot but manager Steve Clarke will have to watch the final game of the season from the stands after being handed a two-match touchline ban following recent comments about referee Steven McLean. But his Killie future remains in doubt amid links to the Scotland job and assistant Alex Dyer has admitted Clarke would find the national job hard to turn down. Team News While Flanagan is available, Nikola Katic and Scott Arfield will miss the Rugby Park clash after both were given extra time off ahead of summer commitments with Croatia's U21s and Canada respectively. But Graham Dorrans could end his seven-month knee injury nightmare against Steve Clarke's side. "Graham has featured well in training recently," said McAllister. "He's had a couple of games behind closed doors and done very well so Graham will come into consideration for the weekend definitely." https://www.skysports.com/football/kilmarnock-vs-rangers/preview/406788
  2. Rangers will be without first-choice goalkeeper Allan McGregor for the final Old Firm derby of the season on Sunday, live on Sky Sports. The former Scotland number one will have to sit out the Ibrox clash with Neil Lennon's Celtic after he was sent off for kicking out at Hibernian striker Marc McNulty last weekend. Fringe men Kyle Lafferty, Lee Wallace and Eros Grezda are also ruled out with knocks as they join Gareth McAuley, Graham Dorrans and Jamie Murphy (both knee) on the absentee list. Since the two sides last met in a fiery encounter at the end of March, Rangers have won all five of their Scottish Premiership games and manager Steven Gerrard says the game still has meaning despite final positions already being confirmed. "All the players are aware it is a big game for the supporters with the rivalry and all the history which has gone before," he said. "After the last Old Firm, which we played really in and felt as if we should have taken something from, we have stressed the importance of trying to finish the season as strongly as we can and really focus on this season." Celtic clinched their eighth successive Scottish Premiership title last week with a 3-0 win at Aberdeen, and interim manager Neil Lennon has claimed Rangers have a "huge disciplinary problem" ahead of Sunday's game. He said: "It's not my problem that they have a huge disciplinary problem and if it manifests itself again on Sunday then we will try to take advantage. "Scott Brown is always important. It is a big game and he is a big game player. It is very easy to say Scott Brown will be playing on Sunday. We are the champions and we have to play and act like champions." Lennon will assess a number of his Celtic squad ahead of the Scottish Premiership clash. Kieran Tierney will have an operation on a double hernia at the end of the domestic season and the Hoops interim boss will decide how many of the final three games of the campaign he will play. Ryan Christie (face), Jack Hendry, Vakoun Bayo, Dedryck Boyata (all hamstring), Craig Gordon, Eboue Kouassi and Daniel Arzani (all knee) are out, while Leigh Griffiths is back training after dealing with personal issues but has no chance of featuring at Ibrox. https://www.skysports.com/football/rangers-vs-celtic/preview/406781
  3. buster. 2,478 #7 Posted 6 hours ago The Scottish Premiership Ibrox Stadium Rangers FC vs Hibernian FC Referee – Bobby Madden Assistants – Sean Carr and Graeme Leslie Fourth Official – Alan Newlands Missing: Jamie Murphy (Knee), Graham Dorrans (Knee), Gareth McAuley (hamstring, out for the season) Doubtful: Ryan Jack (throat infection) Live on Sky Sports Football and Rangers TV Penultimate home game of the season brings Hibs to Ibrox in one of two significant Home challenges left to play prior to holidays. They will arrive for the first time at Ibrox with Paul Heckingbottom in charge. First thing to say is, that is some surname and the mind drifts to yesterday afternoon walking along the beach with some ecking views to behold. In fact, trying to squeeze in a bit of equality on the back or bottom of Hecking for a second, you wonder if Hibs will be back in for Kris Commons soon. Their results under Heck Unbeaten in 10 league games (6 wins and 4 draws) Sat 16/02/19 PRE Hibernian 2 - 0 Hamilton Acade… View events More info Fri 22/02/19 PRE Dundee 2 - 4 Hibernian View events More info Wed 27/02/19 PRE St. Johnstone 1 - 2 Hibernian View events More info Sat 02/03/19 FAC Hibernian 0 - 2 Celtic View events More info Fri 08/03/19 PRE Hibernian 1 - 1 Rangers View events More info Sat 16/03/19 PRE Hibernian 2 - 0 Motherwell View events More info Fri 29/03/19 PRE Livingston 1 - 2 Hibernian View events More info Wed 03/04/19 PRE Hibernian 0 - 0 Kilmarnock More info Sat 06/04/19 PRE Hearts 1 - 2 Hibernian View events More info Sun 21/04/19 PRE Hibernian 0 - 0 Celtic More info Sun 28/04/19 PRE Hibernian 1 - 1 Hearts Away results only Bottom 6 teams and a poorish Hearts Fri 22/02/19 PRE Dundee 2 - 4 Hibernian View events More info Wed 27/02/19 PRE St. Johnstone 1 - 2 Hibernian View events More info Fri 29/03/19 PRE Livingston 1 - 2 Hibernian View events More info Sat 06/04/19 PRE Hearts 1 - 2 Hibernian I watched most of the Edinburgh Derby away win and they counter attacked effectively mainly down to the distribution of Mallen and the ball carrying/threat of Horgan. The guy they have on loan from Genoa, Omeonga also has his moments....At the other end they are physical and will take their pound of flesh if the referee lets them. The question is do Hibs set-up defensively and play the counter-attack ? Probably, and on paper, their counter attack offers a fair bit more than a depleted Aberdeen last week. So this for me, will probably be the biggest test for our new shape and way of playing to date. I'm presuming we'll stay with the same shape and personnel (Jack's throat permitting). Having Morelos on the bench will be good insurance and an excellent option in the second half. Here are our results during the same time period as the O Heck era at Easter Road. It's like a high pressure area sticks around for a while, followed by a series of weather fronts from the Atlantic, followed by another spell of high pressure...We'll need to do something about so much change to the climate and become consistent and now is a good time to edge closer towards that, by registering a 5th successive league win for the first time since 2011. Sat 16/02/19 PRE Rangers 0 - 0 St. Johnstone More info Wed 20/02/19 FAC Rangers 5 - 0 Kilmarnock View events More info Sun 24/02/19 PRE Hamilton Acade… 0 - 5 Rangers View events More info Wed 27/02/19 PRE Rangers 4 - 0 Dundee View events More info Sun 03/03/19 FAC Aberdeen 1 - 1 Rangers View events More info Fri 08/03/19 PRE Hibernian 1 - 1 Rangers View events More info Tue 12/03/19 FAC Rangers 0 - 2 Aberdeen View events More info Sat 16/03/19 PRE Rangers 1 - 1 Kilmarnock View events More info Sun 31/03/19 PRE Celtic 2 - 1 Rangers View events More info Wed 03/04/19 PRE Rangers 3 - 0 Hearts View events More info Sun 07/04/19 PRE Motherwell 0 - 3 Rangers View events More info Sat 20/04/19 PRE Hearts 1 - 3 Rangers View events More info Sun 28/04/19 PRE Rangers 2 - 0 Aberdeen View events More info Sun 05/05/19 PRE Rangers 15 : 30 Hibernian Home games only Sat 16/02/19 PRE Rangers 0 - 0 St. Johnstone More info Wed 20/02/19 FAC Rangers 5 - 0 Kilmarnock View events More info Wed 27/02/19 PRE Rangers 4 - 0 Dundee View events More info Tue 12/03/19 FAC Rangers 0 - 2 Aberdeen View events More info Sat 16/03/19 PRE Rangers 1 - 1 Kilmarnock View events More info Wed 03/04/19 PRE Rangers 3 - 0 Hearts View events More info Sun 28/04/19 PRE Rangers 2 - 0 Aberdeen It's time Hibs were beaten in the League under O'Heck and I think we'll be the team to do it. Fancy Ryan Kent to have a decent game and be the main man this weekend
  4. One of the best perks of being part of the Blue Order over the years was bringing out the huge 'Silence of the Sheep' banner every time we beat them at Ibrox. Sure, it was rather crude and small children may have been offended and cried, but Aberdeen's awful record over the years in Glasgow meant it was good sport and a well deserved message. Unfortunately, this season at least, it's us that have been silenced and the bragging rights are currently the prerogative of our chums in the North East. Aside from an impressive 4-2 reverse in Aberdeen, in the six games we've already played against the Dons this season, that has been our only victory. Yes, we've dominated possession and territory in most of the other matches as well but the men in red have won three times; all in Glasgow and twice at Ibrox. Suffice to say, Sunday's match won't be any cake-walk and, no matter the result, TBO won't be flying any banners of long-lost hubris. Worse for the Rangers support are today's media reports that both captain James Tavernier and striker Jermain Defoe are struggling to make the game. The latter was pictures training this morning so should feature but the loss of our skipper would be a blow, more so should the injury be a longer term one. We do have options to replace him - Matt Polster may be the preferred one after making a short cameo in the role last weekend - but those Rangers fans that bemoan Tav's captaincy and contribution may find themselves eating their words should we struggle creatively on Sunday afternoon. The good news for the support is that we've shown of late we can cope with adversity. The loss of Morelos and Kent to suspension worried all but the most optimistic of bears but the change in personnel and system to address that has worked well with three straight wins. And convincing ones at that. Kent is available again for Sunday but it says a lot for our current form that he may have to settle for a place on the bench. Morelos isn't back until next Sunday but, should Defoe remain fit and still scoring goals, then the Colombian too could rue his recent indiscipline. Injury and suspension aside, the rest of the Rangers team should pick itself. The defence have looked solid enough with Niko Katic proving himself very useful when we're facing physical strikers. After dealing well with Curtis Main and Uche Ikpeazu in the last two games, the Croatian centre half will relish another aerial battle with the impressive Sam Cosgrove. Meanwhile, in midfield, the likes of Ryan Jack, Glen Kamara and Steven Davis have all stepped up recently so should retain their place this week too. Indeed, the battling qualities of the Aberdeen midfield will mean they'll have to be on the top of their game once more. Our prize for three points is a clear one: at least second place in this year's Ladbrokes Premiership with Aberdeen left to battle it out with Killie and Hibs for third, fourth and fifth. A draw wouldn't be the end of the world either leaving us eight points in front of Aberdeen with just three games left. A loss brings Aberdeen right back into the reckoning and would guarantee is nothing ahead of our remaining matches. Given recent bickering between the managers in the media, it seems any bragging isn't just between the fans now either so both Gerrard and McInnes have put themselves under pressure. Yes, Aberdeen may well offer more against us than other teams but that's no excuse when it comes to our poor results and performances against them. That has to change and there's no time like the present. Possible team (4-3-2-1):
  5. Rangers remain without Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos due to suspension for Saturday's trip to Hearts, live on Sky Sports. If Rangers fail to win on Saturday, then Celtic will be champions if they win at Hibernian on Sunday. Steven Gerrard insists he has no new injury concerns and his entire squad is fit and available apart from his two key men, who were dismissed against Celtic in March. Gerrard, whose team are 11 points off Ladbrokes Premiership leaders Celtic and were knocked out by Aberdeen in both of the domestic cups, said: "I think the players deserve a lot of credit considering where they were 12 months ago to where they are now. "But the message to the players is quite clear, we need to continue to work hard and keep improving because there's still a way to go before we are ready to compete for real." After featuring in the victory over Inverness, Hearts midfielder Peter Haring has suffered a recurrence of the groin injury that kept him out for a few weeks and is a major doubt. Hearts remain without Aidan Keena, Steven Naismith, Ben Garuccio, Demetri Mitchell and Callumn Morrison due to long term knee problems. https://www.skysports.com/football/hearts-vs-rangers/preview/406760
  6. Steven Gerrard will be absent from the dugout when Rangers travel to Motherwell in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday, live on Sky Sports. Gerrard has accepted a one-match touchline ban after he was charged for comments he made to referee Bobby Madden in the aftermath of Rangers' defeat to Celtic last weekend. Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos are also suspended following incidents during the Celtic Park showdown. Rangers are 13 points behind leaders Celtic, who could secure an eighth consecutive title if they beat Livingston on Saturday and Rangers lose on Sunday. With one game remaining until the league split, Motherwell are eighth in the table, six points behind sixth-placed Hibernian. They were beaten 3-1 at Aberdeen in midweek but have won their last five games at Fir Park. Goalkeeper Mark Gillespie faces a late fitness test while Carl McHugh is a doubt due to a neck injury. https://www.skysports.com/football/motherwell-vs-rangers/391335
  7. Have to admit, due to family commitments, I didn't start watching Sunday's Old Firm match until the second half. All things considered, it seems I got the better deal as, despite Morelos' sending off, Rangers outplayed Celtic for much of the second period and only another schoolboy error on our part cost us at least a deserved point. Unfortunately the outcome was all too familiar. OK, we've not lost a huge amount of games this season but we have dropped too many points. And, far too often, this has been the result of indiscipline and unforced errors. In fact, we've not won now in five games and in every match we've given away crucial goals which weren't just avoidable but bordering on the completely ridiculous. From the two errors in possession which cost us goals on Saturday (albeit finished well by Celtic) to poor goalkeeping, daft square passes, being caught on the ball and giving away daft penalties, the sheer number of crazy mistakes of late must have the manager tearing his hair out. Add in suspensions now for Morelos, Halliday and Kent, we're now without three important players just as the fixtures become even harder. What makes all this all the more difficult to swallow is the fine margins. Sure, we've not been playing that well recently and we still struggle up against compact defences but we're clearly not far off being more than a decent side ourselves. The football at times (see our equaliser at the weekend) is fantastic and we do show some excellent character when least expected. Take away some of the sillier mistakes and the indiscipline then we may have taken better advantage of what has been a fairly average Celtic outfit this campaign. No matter, what if's don't stand up to much scrutiny so we are where we are and we need to end this win-less run now if we're to consolidate second position this season and take any sort of solace from another barren year. Tonight at Ibrox we host Hearts so it's another tough game against a side that always enjoy the physical aspect and, as they showed on Saturday in their win over Aberdeen, won't have any worries in facing us. Even if they're missing a few key players themselves - particularly the impressive Uche Ikpeazu who suffered concussion late in their Dons win - Hearts always put up stiff opposition so we can expect a tricky game. In terms of our team, losing Morelos and Halliday restricts the manager's options quite severely. Up front, the Colombian has obviously supplied the majority of our goals and with neither Jermain Defoe or the rarely seen Kyle Lafferty showing up too often due to Morelos' PotY form their lack of sharpness is all too obvious. Opting for one or both these players tonight will be key to the system we deploy: will it be our default 4-3-3 with Lafferty in a more withdrawn role or two in attack which may suit these players better? Meanwhile Borna Barisic is again injured so it seems Jon Flanagan may be brought in from the cold for the left back position. Lee Wallace is even further out of the picture so it's unlikely the former club captain will make a return tonight against his old club. Apparently Ryan Kent has appealed his two game ban so should be available this evening which is one small comfort for Steven Gerrard. After those key decisions, the manager may also be tempted into further changes. Joe Worrall again looked uncertain on Sunday so Niko Katic may be preferred whilst the dynamic of the midfield, given the opposition, the venue and our chosen formation, may see a McCrorie, Candeias or Jack drop out in favour of Kamara or Davis. Whatever the team, the pressure is on Rangers tonight. Although most fans appreciated the way we reacted to adversity at the weekend, more dropped points would cause real concern in the rank and file. Killie look strong behind us and we can't afford any gap to shorten further as the post-split fixtures are about to be decided. This Rangers team need to knuckle down now and supply results as well as performances. Cutting out the mistakes - both in terms of reacting to moronic opposition players and with respect to our decision-making on and off the ball, will go a long, long way. Possible team (4-3-3):
  8. It's been a long, long working week for Rangers fans. Last weekend was a write-off before it even really got started with a dreadful draw after dominating at Easter Road - made worse by Celtic dropping points the following day at home to Aberdeen. It was to get worse, however, just a few days later as Rangers yet again didn't learn anything from that game - nor previous matches against the Dons in Glasgow - as we completely failed to breach their defensive block at Ibrox on Tuesday night. Understandably the reaction from our support has been extremely negative. Everyone from key players, to the manager, to the scouting team, right through to Mark Allen and Dave King have been the focus of the fans' frustration. Not enough quality, not enough character, not enough tactical awareness, poor signings, reliance on Bosmans and not enough investment from directors means one can take their pick for another two poor results as our inconsistency in 2019 perhaps cost us any chance of a trophy this season. In that sense, no-one can argue the listed points are wrong. We do lack quality in the squad and we only need a few players to not be on their game (or nullified by the opposition) to effectively be impotent. We do lack character as well throughout the team: yes, we've shown we can compete in most games (nay dominate them) but lose a goal or miss a few chances then heads go down and the lack of belief is obvious. Tactical awareness is also key: I doubt many fans would have started the last two games with a different team or system but if the manager's preferred 4-3-3 isn't working (or has been countered) then he has to be prepared to change it quicker than he does. The same goes if certain players are not playing well - why wait until the 70th minute before making a change? With that in mind, is this delay down to a lack of faith in the manager's squad and, if so, who is responsible for that. Is it Gerrard himself, lead scout Andy Scoulding or Mark Allen who supposedly oversees all recruitment? And if that Director of Football system is failing, what responsibility do the board of directors and chairman take therein? Ultimately though we do need to retain a sense of perspective. Yes, of course all the problems above are worthy of discussing and to ignore them would be daft. Yet, at the same time, we've all seen the good performances this season: those periods of games where our football has actually been outstanding and only that oft-seen lack of clinicality has cost us too many lost points. It seems a long while ago now but our performances in Europe had us all very positive and generally showed our 4-3-3 to be very useful in many situations. Ergo, in this commentator's opinion, progress has been made this season under Steven Gerrard. We must remember this is the manager's first job and the raft of changes to accommodate his ideas and that of Mark Allen were always going to necessitate a bedding-in period. This also means more patience from the supporters - hard to find when being beaten by Aberdeen in Glasgow, in all three competitions for the first time - but I see few other alternatives to speed up the process of bringing back success. Gerrard has only had two windows and, whilst the jury is out on how successful these windows have been, one year isn't enough for any manager to instil his vision on a club. Are we to change manager every year and give them just a few months to overtake Celtic? Progress made then? Yes, so far at least, we have improved. I've seen stats offered up by critics that we're no better off than under Warburton or Caixinha/Murty and I find that difficult to reconcile. There are definitely similarities in our weaknesses but we need only look at the league table to see we're better off. I'd also consider the Premiership to be as competitive as it's been in 30 years so whilst the Old Firm's budgets should mean a cushion between us and the rest, we dismiss well-drilled teams like Aberdeen, Kilmarnock and Hearts with wily, experienced managers at our peril. Indeed, defeats like we witnessed the other night should allow us all to refocus. Derek McInnes may well have turned down the Rangers job last year and his teams are hardly Man City-like in style but he's not daft either and deserves respect. The same goes for Stevie Clarke, Craig Levein and, dare I say it, Neil Lennon. All played the game to a decent level and can clearly coach well too. Gerrard may have blown them all away as a player but he's a mere infant by way of comparison in the dugout. Fortunately, our manager is someone that doesn't usually shirk a challenge nor hide from criticism. He'll be as aware as you or I as to his and his team's faults. And it will be interesting to see how he reacts to waters as stormy as he'll have faced in several years. Of course he'll be wanting new signings to help but, to maximise any summer budget, he'll need to demonstrate further worth over the next 6-8 weeks. Realistically the eight point gap to Celtic is unlikely to be breached, but we have the same lead over Aberdeen and Killie so securing second place via a strong finish in the league is the least fans will expect. With that in mind, and with us facing both Killie and Celtic over the next fortnight, the manager will require to provide points from these matches. Kilmarnock will likely look to mimic Aberdeen's well-organised resistance tomorrow so Gerrard has had a few days to come up with a different tactical plan to get around their low block and physical midfield. Meanwhile, at Celtic Park on the last day of March, the usual 4-3-3 might be best as we look to match what we did to Lennon's men three months ago at Ibrox. Being able to move between different systems and formations isn't something we've done all that well this season - at least from losing positions - so doing so over the rest of this campaign will allay some of the fears over the manager. Tactical flexibility and pragmatism was something that Walter Smith excelled at, as well as getting the best out of many ordinary players, so if Gerrard wants sage advice, then he need only pick up the phone. All things considered I think this will mean a formation change tomorrow with two players up front. Quite simply the responsibility forced on Alfredo Morelos each week is unrealistic and why sign Jermain Defoe for 18 months if you're not going to use him properly? As such, whether it's the diamond or even the glimpse and you'll miss it 3-5-2 we've seen a couple of times this season, one will be deployed this weekend. It will also be interesting to see if there are any personnel changes within that with several players in obvious need of being rotated out and rested. I'd expect to see Ross McCrorie and Steven Davis back in the starting XI along with someone like Eros Grezda from the bench. No matter the selection, three points need to be ground out and the players also need to show some mental strength and adaptability in front of what will always be an unreasonably expectant home crowd. In that regard, it's hard to blame the fans for often being so demanding. As a dominant Celtic: be it football wise, in finance terms or politically off the field, retain a stranglehold on their way to breaking all records, our fans become ever more concerned about the future. I wholly share in that concern but stamping our feet every time we lose a game won't bring success back any quicker. Of course we're absolutely right to criticise and our, quite frankly, incredible loyalty since the frauds of 2012 means we're entitled to expect more but any criticism must be realistic, fair and in proportion. It's often lazy and cliched to refer to Bill Struth when writing about Rangers but his words have never been more relevant for modern day Rangers fans: "Never fear, inevitably we shall have our years of failure, and when they arrive, we must reveal tolerance and sanity." Approaching a decade on on from the disgraces of David Murray and the cheats of Craig Whyte, Charles Green and the Easdales, the virtues mentioned become harder to come by but prevail we must. No matter how long it takes...
  9. Rangers and Aberdeen will play each other for the sixth time this season when they meet in their Scottish Cup quarter-final replay on Tuesday. However, it will be only the second time they have played at Ibrox, with Aberdeen winning 1-0 in their Scottish Premiership meeting there in December. Rangers manager Steven Gerrard said: "Any game against Aberdeen is always huge. The message from me is forget the semi-final. We have a big, tough challenge smacking us in the face and we need to go and perform at a level that is capable of getting us the right result. "I think it would be very naive of the players to think about Hampden. We have a job to do at Ibrox first and foremost." Aberdeen have won two of their encounters against Rangers this season, but manager Derek McInnes does not think those other fixtures will have a bearing on Tuesday's game. He said: "We won there the year before last as well. We went down there after the split and won a game that helped us get second spot again and we've had some decent results against Rangers this season, but I don't think it counts for much what's happened previously. "The perception for maybe being seen to be more equipped or more resilient to deal with games in Glasgow from the press there may be something in that, but we've always felt we can take on teams home and away. I think each game's different and what's happened in the past I don't think has much bearing on tomorrow night." Team news Rangers will be without Gareth McAuley as he continues to recover from a hamstring problem but Borna Barisic is available having had an illness. Aberdeen's top scorer Sam Cosgrove, who has 18 goals for the season, is suspended. Gary Mackay-Steven and Niall McGinn will be assessed ahead of the game. https://www.skysports.com/football/rangers-vs-aberdeen/406406
  10. I must admit, I'm still a bit unsure about Friday night football. On the one hand, it's the end of the working week for most so there are few better ways to enjoy a Friday evening than watching your favourite team with a few of your preferred beverages. Win, and you can stride about the Saturday shopping like a man who has just won the lottery (aye, grab a couple of steaks, hen). But, lose, well, everyone's weekend is spoilt and there's not much joy to be had from watching Sky Sports coverage the following day desperate for the teams around you to drop points too (put they steaks back and no sweets for the bairns either). In that vein, Rangers can ill-afford not to win tonight. Already eight points behind Celtic in the league, anything other than a win would surely be the death knell for any thoughts we still have of winning the title. After all, the chances of Aberdeen putting up a fight at Celtic Park tomorrow are fairly low. More so when their biggest game of the season is at Ibrox this coming Tuesday... In any case, as much as we may have to rely on other teams taking points from Celtic, we can only hope the existing gap helps focus the minds of our players. We visit the East side of Glasgow ourselves in three weeks so with only this game and next week's visit of Kilmarnock (yes, them again), we need nothing less than six points and a win at Parkhead to at least attempt to apply some pressure to Brendan Rodger's Neil Lennon's men (yes, him again). That's easier said than done though. Since Lennon left Hibs in controversial circumstances at the end of January, the Edinburgh team's form has been reasonable enough under new manager Paul Heckingbottom with three solid league wins and only the one loss as Lennon returned to Easter Road in the Scottish Cup last weekend. The bulk of the Hibs squad will remain familiar to Rangers fans and although they've lost a few key players in recent times, the threat of Marc McNulty and the guile of Serie A midfielder Stéphane Oméonga can be ignored at our peril this evening. Nevertheless, as much as we've been inconsistent this season, we carry plenty of threat ourselves. Steven Gerrard has also been able to play a fairly settled team in recent weeks and this has been reflected in an unbeaten run that has reached ten games. Add in the fact we've only conceded one goal from open play in those ten games, as well as scoring 29 then clearly we're perhaps due a bit more credit than even some of our our fans like to hand out (yours truly included). This should mean few changes from the bulk of the XI that has started recent matches. Unfortunately, with Ryan Jack and Scott Arfield not 100% fit, Gerrard may be tempted resting at least one, even if both players trained fully yesterday. With Eros Grezda also available again and Ross McCrorie a reliable back up for Jack, the manager certainly has alternatives should he wish to shake things up. No matter the starting XI though, the challenge remains the same: beat Hibs at the third time of asking this season. That's never easy in Edinburgh but we should have done so in December and again just a week later in Glasgow. That was four points dropped though so we must go some way to recovering those tonight with a win. Let's hope we're all grabbing that shopping trolley with a smile on our face tomorrow. Possible team (4-3-3):
  11. Steven Gerrard looks to take Rangers a step closer to their first major silverware since 2011 as they go to Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup last eight. The former Liverpool midfielder, who won the English FA Cup twice with the Reds, has seen his side win three on the trot, scoring 14 goals and conceding none. He cannot wait for the tie at Pittodrie on Sunday, particularly the hostile environment. "The players are in a good place, there has been a lot of positivity in our play in recent weeks," said Gerrard. "But we're aware that this cup tie is a big challenge for us. It's a huge game for us, a competition we want to do really well in, so we can't wait for the game to start. "You don't want to be remembered as just a good player, you want to be remembered as a winner. "That's always the challenge, but for me it's a wonderful game to look forward to as a player, to go to Pittodrie in that hostile environment, against a good Aberdeen team, that's got to be exciting for a player." Aberdeen trail Rangers by one place but eight points in the Scottish Premiership, and manager Derek McInnes feels it will take a big performance to knock Gerrard's side out. "Rangers are a good side but on the day we'll pick an 11 that we feel can do the job. It'll take a big performance but we are obviously capable of winning the game." Team news Scott Arfield and Andy Halliday are both doubts for Rangers going into Sunday's game, having not quite recovered from injury. Max Lowe, James Wilson and Gary Mackay-Steven are in with a chance for Aberdeen. Greg Halford, signed as a free transfer this week, is not match fit but could feature for the hosts. https://www.skysports.com/football/aberdeen-vs-rangers/preview/406305
  12. On Wednesday evening Rangers get a visit from Dundee to the hallowed turf of Ibrox. After a toothless 0-0 draw with St Johnstone on the 16th of February, Rangers have bounced back against Kilmarnock and Hamilton marking up both games with 5-0 wins. I know our detractors will say that Kilmarnock only had 10 men for a large part of the game and Hamilton are a pretty rubbish team but the big talking point for me was the difference in the hunger, intensity and play style from all three games. Against St Johnstone we were lethargic from the beginning passing slowly backwards or to the side with nobody willing to take the game by the scruff of the neck and try and break the game open. Steven Gerrard said himself that sometimes Rangers players think they can just turn up to win the points. Against St Johnstone it was just like we were out for a Sunday stroll in the park and only the ball bouncing onto the crossbar and not into the net saved us from losing three points instead of two. Against Kilmarnock at Ibrox it was a different Rangers that turned up. We were fresh and crisp. The sending off of their keeper Bachmann didn't help Killie's cause but lets not detract from the Rangers win Rangers pressed high and were all over Killie like a rash even when they played with eleven men. Then there was the El Buffalo. Although he was serving a three game suspension he was available for this Scottish cup game. And what a game he had. He scored four goals and could even of had a few more. When we took to the field against Hamilton it was written almost everywhere that Rangers were a one man team and without Morelos we would struggle to score. The Gers again came out with the high press and Hamilton just couldn't handle the movement and technical ability of Rangers. All of a sudden we have another five goal win and all goals coming from five different players including Kyle Lafferty who hadn't scored since September. In my opinion one of the reasons for this turn around is the introduction of Glen Kamara in the defensive midfield role. Kamara is great at winning the ball back and keeping the ball retention going with rangers having sixty-six precent of the play. He also always passes the ball forward at speed which does not allow the opposing team to fall back into their normal bank of four defenders and five midfielders guarding the box. Ryan Jack also seems to relish playing in a slightly more advanced midfield role and is even starting to add goals to his arsenal. Against Dundee we need the sharp Rangers team to turn up again . With Celtic being eight points clear there is no room for the lacklustre Rangers to show up. If we want to give Celtic a run for their money then we need to go on a winning run right up to the end of the season. We may have been given a boost with the resignation of Brendon Rogers if it has a negative influence on the Celtic team, but if Rangers don't win our own games then frankly it does not matter what they do over at Tin City. We know Dundee will set up to frustrate Rangers in a nine man defensive line-up probably with our old friend Kenny Miller leading the Dundee line as a lone striker. Give Miller a half a chance and McGregor will be picking the ball out of the net. Gerrard made it clear at the press-conference that Andy Halliday has a tight groin and he will probably rest him for this match.Halliday has been showing fine form of late and is giving Steven Gerrard a problem whether to play him or Barisic in the left-back position. Halliday may be less technical but he is certainly ahead in the goal and assists table at the moment. Personally I doubt there will be many other changes except of course Morelos will replace Jermain Defoe. That will make the team: McGregor Tavernier Goldson Worrall Barisic Kamara Candeias Arfield Jack Kent Morelos Rangers have a score to settle against Dundee as we drew 1-1 with them at Dens Park in December despite Dundee playing 70 minutes with ten men. That day the Lacklustre Rangers team turned up and games like that are the reason we are eight points behind Celtic. The form and hunger of the last few games has to be a rich vein of form and not a flash in the pan. One of the most said phrases this season is we are looking for a reaction from the players after dropping points. We should not need to be looking for a reaction we should be turning out consistently good performances. This team are at times unplayable, as they were even for Celtic, but passing the ball slowly around the team letting Dundee get their defensive block set up will look great on the possession statistics, but will slam the door of the trophy room firmly shut. Every game is now last chance saloon. C'mon the Gers!!!!
  13. Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has questioned his players' mentality ahead of the club's crucial Scottish Cup fifth-round replay with Kilmarnock on Wednesday night. Rangers head into the cup tie at Ibrox on the back of a hugely disappointing goalless draw at home to St Johnstone on Saturday, a result that ultimately saw them fall eight points behind Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership. And Gerrard is determined to get rid of any complacency in his players, starting against Killie. "The week's training heading into St Johnstone, I didn't see the team with the right mentality, I saw a bit of ego before that match," said Gerrard. "This doesn't happen very often, we are usually strong. I have told the players in a very honest way that is not acceptable at Rangers. "I don't think I was brutal, I was honest. Maybe I put it across in a more obvious way but I'm not going to lie to them. The reaction shouldn't be for me, it should be for the 49,000 inside Ibrox. "I love my players to bits, they have gone to places for me and the fans that was above and beyond but there have to be times when you have to tell players certain things. It can hurt the player in the short term but will benefit them going forward. "We need to go back to our standards, at the weekend I didn't see a proper Rangers team with the right mentality. "If I see anyone thinking they can just walk into the team I will have words. I have done it myself, had a dip in form and went into cruise control, it's my job to spot it. We have players desperate for success but we are inexperienced in terms of winning." Team news Rangers striker and top scorer Alfredo Morelos returns from a two-game suspension, while midfielder Scott Arfield may feature after recovering from injury. However, the hosts will be without suspended goalkeeper Allan McGregor, midfielder Ryan Jack is an injury doubt and Graeme Dorrans misses out after suffering a setback following almost five months on the sidelines. Meanwhile, Steve Clarke's team will be without suspended centre-back Kirk Broadfoot after his sending-off against Celtic on Sunday and injured full-back Ross Millen. However, the visitors are confident central defender Stuart Findlay will have recovered from injury in time to feature. https://www.skysports.com/football/rangers-vs-kilmarnock/preview/406303
  14. It's perhaps not quite one step forward, two steps back with Rangers at the moment but there's no doubt this Rangers team are as frustrating as any I've followed over the years. Quite clearly, we have a number of talented players and a manager who seems able to motivate them for bigger games but the same personnel are just as capable of regularly insipid performances and even the manager acknowledges he can't quite focus them for other matches? Why is this? Rewind back a couple of months and we have a team that destroyed Celtic at Ibrox, giving our fans confidence and belief a title challenge could be made over the rest of the campaign. As we ended 2018, morale was as high as it's been for a while. Since then we've played five league matches: including beating Aberdeen in a fine display at Pittodrie but also dropping points in two other games, away at Kilmarnock and at home last Saturday to St Johnstone. It's safe to say that's not title-winning form and this continual inconsistency is difficult to explain. Are the players not good enough? Perhaps it is as simple as that but we've seen some excellent performances from most individuals this season, not to mention some superb team achievements (not least in Europe) so that suggests we do have the quality but just lack a certain something to accompany it. Is it belief? This is possible given the number of times we've come up against parked buses and seemed incapable of breaking such teams down, often visibly giving up the ghost well before the end of some matches. In contrast though, in various perceived bigger games, we've gone toe to toe with teams such as Celtic, Villarreal, Spartak and others, looking every inch as if we have the confidence to beat them and doing well many times this season. What about general attitude and motivation? Earlier this week the manager talked about ego problems ahead of the St Johnstone game and questioned if that contributed to what was a very poor display from almost all his players. Right from the first whistle, we looked lazy, disinterested and didn't work hard enough to break down a stubborn Saints side. However, despite issues with tempo in some games, generally I'd argue we usually put in the effort so it's not just that either. All things considered, I think the easiest answer/cop-out is that our problems are due to a combination of the above. Most teams have such faults and the manager's job is to correct them: signing and using the right players along with ensuring they have the right mental and physical traits to maximise results. I, for one, still don't doubt Steven Gerrard is the man for that job but, I also don't doubt that he's still learning how best to do this as an inexperienced manager himself. As such, I think the most positive conclusion to arrive at is Gerrard and his squad are still growing together and patience will be required from our fans, whilst they do so. Yes, we can't wait forever for a combination that may never arrive but neither can we keep changing the manager and/or making wholesale player changes every summer either. In essence, I believe pragmatism is our best foot forward for the moment and if the supporters can remain behind the team in this way, Gerrard will deliver in the longer term. Ask Manchester Utd fans if they were glad they stuck by Alex Ferguson for the first few years...? That noble sentiment and hindsight aside, I still think this Rangers team are capable of a lot more and it would be good to see them demonstrate that this Sunday at Hamilton - themselves having just appointed a new manager and having actually beat St Johnstone at home just over two weeks ago. Nevertheless, we're just off the back of an excellent cup win over Kilmarnock so the players should be in fine fettle ahead of the short trip to Lanarkshire. Of course, we're back on an artificial surface but that need not and should not be any sort of excuse, given we've beaten, not just Acas but Killie and Livi as well on their 4G pitches this season. Yes, they're not ideal and it may mean a couple of changes in personnel, but we should be more than capable of providing more quality than these teams, irrespective of grass. That's not the dismissive ego Gerrard spoke of either but a simple confidence in the squad we have. The bad news is that we'll again be without Alfredo Morelos as he serves his final game of his suspension but the good news is that Allan McGregor should return after his own disciplinary absence. Both players will need to be more mindful of their obligations in this regard. Super-slo motion replays from dozens of angles and from unfriendly sources means gamesmanship is definitely more risk than reward for Rangers players. The loss of Morelos is a disappointing one but it's important we deal with this much better this Sunday. Will this mean a 4-4-2 with Defoe and Lafferty leading the line or a retention of our favoured 4-3-3 I'm not sure but, again, we should make either system work - as long as the players commit to and believe in their own ability. With others such as Arfield, McCrorie, Jack, Goldson and Barisic all suffering from niggles lately, one or two further players may be rotated in but with four clean sheets in our last five games there's no coincidence that a settled defence is working rather better than constant change for change's sake. Because of this I'd be keen to retain as many of the same players from midweek as we can and look to them to supply the same determination, focus and quality to ensure another three points. Patience is indeed a virtue but that need not excuse every bad result and there's no excuse for one this Sunday. Possible team (4-3-3):
  15. Lest we forget, a game today ... Kilmarnock FC vs Rangers FC Missing: Jamie Murphy (Knee), Graham Dorrans (Knee), Eros Grezda (Ankle), Alfredo Morelos (Suspension) Doubtful: Glen Kamara (lack of game time) Referee - Alan Muir Assistants - Douglas Ross and Drew Kirkland Fourth Official - Barry Cook Live on Premier Sports 1 and Rangers TV! Willie Vass Training Gallery Press Conference - McAllister & Goldson
  16. After what seemed an incredibly long January and winter break from Scottish football, the games are coming thick and fast again for Rangers as we enter February. And, despite the end of the season still being a few months away, this week will be a defining one for the club. Not only do we travel (again) to the hallowed, erm, artificial turf of Rugby Park on Saturday in the next round of the Scottish Cup, we're on league duty tonight in Aberdeen. Lose both games and pride may be the only thing we can salvage from the rest of our campaign. Win both and finally, just finally we might gather enough momentum to challenge for silverware. As the old cliche goes, it's one game at a time though and tonight's match will be a fascinating one given Rangers have failed to beat Aberdeen in three attempts already this season. Yes, events may have gone against us once or twice, but these games have actually been good examples of our season: i.e. dominate possession but don't create nor take enough chances and then concede cheap goals. Steven Gerrard will be keen to change that tonight. But what Rangers team will turn up? First of all, inconsistency has blighted our season. No-one can deny we've progressed to a degree and have a better team from last season but we've still dropped far too many points and there have been few games where we can say we played well throughout the 90mins. Ironically that was the case in the league opener at Pittodrie last August where, despite going down to ten men after just 12 minutes, we contained Aberdeen very well, took the lead and only just failed to hold on - eventually sharing the points to an injury time equaliser. If we're to win this evening, that same work ethic along with improved discipline will be required. With that in mind the starting XI will be interesting - not just in terms of personnel but the system. Recent weeks has seen the manager test variations of 4-4-2 to mediocre effect as he tries to find places in his team for our January signings. Fans remain unconvinced regarding this but it's also fair to say our preferred 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 hasn't always been successful either - specifically when teams sit deep against it; as Aberdeen have done fairly well in the two games they've win against us this season. As such, will the diamond be deployed again tonight? Personally, I can't see it - not to start with anyway. In games against Aberdeen, winning the midfield battle is imperative and matching their physical outlook a must so it would be a big risk not to match that early in the game. Yes, if the match stays tight and if Aberdeen want to sit deep, then moving to a more expansive outlook may be the best alternative strategy but when Bobby Madden blows his whistle to start tonight's contest, I'd expect the same system that served as well in our win over Celtic. Of course the players may well be different. Andy Halliday hasn't let us down this season but we have to hope Borna Barisic is now fully fit and ready to demonstrate why he should be our first choice left back. Meanwhile, at centre back it appears Connor Goldson is also fit again so it will be interesting to see if he comes straight back into the team tonight instead of Katic or Worrall. Other than those two changes, I'd expect the rest of the starting XI to match that of the Old Firm win and with lots of options from the bench, we really need to prove our mettle by beating Aberdeen convincingly for the first time in a while. And, if we're honest with ourselves, if we can't do that - and win on Saturday evening - then we're not worthy of winning trophies anyway. The pressure is most definitely on... Possible team (4-2-3-1)
  17. Bang! The transfer window has closed. Rangers had done most of their business early so Steven Gerrard had predicted that no more players would be coming in. As a true poker player Gerrard held a stony face as his aim was obviously putting pressure on Dundee to sell Glen Kamara for a price that suited Rangers. Rangers already had Kamara signed on a pre-contract to join in the summer but had in the beginning postured to Dundee that if he were to be released early Rangers would be willing to pay a small fee to bring him to Ibrox early. If we are to believe the rumours being passed around then Rangers had 50.000 pounds on the table but Dundee tried to hold out for more. Eventually just before the window shut Rangers increased the offer to 100.000 which Dundee were happy to accept and Kamara could head to Ibrox to sign the needed forms. Many supporters felt that Rangers were in the driving seat for the deal and should have left him at Dundee and get him for nothing in the summer. The problem I have with that is that Kamara had not played for the last three weeks and if Rangers had left him at Dens Park then the chance was that we then got a player who had not played or trained for five months and it would have taken a lot longer to get him up to speed. I know 100.000 sounds a lot of money to us on the lower end of the financial ladder but what is it really in football terms. After all it was almost forty-two years ago Rangers paid 100.000 pound for one David “Davie” Cooper. If Kamara can do a quarter of what Davie Cooper did then it will be money well spent. Another measurement on what it is to pay 100.000 pounds was when West Ham showed interest in Michy Batshuayi who ended up at Crystal Palace. When they heard he earned 160.000 pound in a week they quickly lost any interest. Anyway it is what it is and Kamara will probably be added to the eighteen man pool for our game at Ibrox against st Mirren later today. I personally doubt if he will get any game time but I do believe he will be put on the bench to give him the feeling of the fantastic Ibrox atmosphere. For me Steven Gerrard should have the easiest job in picking a team than he has ever had. The simple fact is you should not repair what is not broken. With the exception of Katic in for the injured Goldson then the team that has performed against so fantastically against Celtic and Livingston should be the first pick. This team showed far more aggression and the mobility to perform the high press that has become pretty standard in modern football. As far as I know Matt Polster was in pre-season in the MSL so he will be a few weeks away from the fitness needed. For me the team should be: M.Gregor Tavernier Worrel Katic Barisic McCrorie Jack candeias Arfield Kent Morelos While I did say the same players that played against Celtic, and I really love Andy Halliday but I do think Barisic is a better player than Halliday and therefore Barisic will be my choice for that left back spot. I would be lying if I said I know a lot about the St Mirren team. They have added two players in Vaclav Hladky a goalkeeper from Slovan Liberec and Brad Lyons from Blackburn. Their tactics won't have changed with the signing of these players it will still be to keep it tight at the back and try and hit us with the proverbial sucker punch on the break. Lets hope the 'Gers are up for this one and I am going for a 4-0 Rangers win. C'mon the 'Gers!
  18. With an overnight frost across Eastern Scotland, it was certainly freezing cold last night and the temperature isn't much higher this morning under clear skies. On this side of the Forth, today's race meeting at Musselburgh has already been abandoned so I don't hold out much hope for Rangers return to action after the winter break tonight across the water in Fife. We should know around lunchtime if the game will go ahead after the covers come off the Central Park pitch at 11am. Fingers crossed this preview isn't moot! First and foremost, I'm sure the manager and players are as eager and as excited as the fans to get playing again. In our last match to close 2018, we destroyed Celtic so confidence is high in the Rangers camp. Add in new signings of proven quality, the support can't wait to see the team hopefully step forward in terms of results and performances in the second half of the season. Ahead of the match later, the manager has already said his new signings should play some part and with the likes of Ross McCrorie suspended, it certainly seems Steven Davis should start in his first appearance of his second spell at the club. Alfredo Morelos' continued good form may mean Jermain Defoe has to be content with a place on the bench but that may be dependent on the system we use and again, Gerrard has suggested he may alter his preferred 4-3-3 more often going forward. Starting in defence though, it will be interesting to see if Wes Foderingham may start in the cup games again to keep him sharp. That may well happen at some point if we progress but with a tough match at Rugby Park on Wednesday then I suspect a strong team tonight to develop sharpness which means Allan McGregor should be retained in goal. Ahead of him, I'd be surprised if the back four changes after the Old Firm clean sheet. Borna Barisic is fit again but I fancy Andy Halliday will keep his place after two fine performances against Hibs and Celtic of late. Centrally, Connor Goldson and Joe Worrall did well in the last game and if both are fit should start tonight. The availability of Goldson isn't certain though so don't be surprised to see Gareth McAuley MBE take his place. As always, captain James Tavernier will start at right back and it was great to see him play so well against Celtic after some average form. Moving further forward, the rest of the starting XI will be dependent on formation. The midfield were fantastic in the Old Firm match but with McCrorie suspended that will mean changes. In some ways, I'm not sure the same three would have started tonight anyway so it gives Gerrard the idea opportunity to allow Jack to sit with Arfield and Davis able to support the attack and find space on what is a very small and tight home park. Because the pitch lacks space, our wide men won't be able to stretch the game as much. This means the manager may just play the one winger in Ryan Kent and ask Defoe and Morelos to interchange in terms of leading the line and working the deeper channels. Candeias perhaps remains the most likely option with just the one striker but Gerrard will be as keen as the fans to see what Defoe can bring when we face tight defences with minimal space. Indeed, although we've still scored plenty goals, breaking down and/or finishing off teams was arguably our biggest flaw in the first half of the season. Therefore, not only increasing creativity but making the most of the chances we do make is obviously a big priority for the management team and the signings so far reflect that outlook. It will be very interesting to see if we can improve and the challenge is a very tough one as we move into the business end of the season. All things considered the Blue Brazil may not offer us the perfect litmus test of where Rangers stand just now but whether or not the game goes ahead, the heat is just getting going in Scottish football (and just not in the hummel training centre sauna). Let's hope we're on fire tonight and over the rest of the campaign! Possible team (4-2-3-1)
  19. Remember that feeling of joy as a kid when it was your birthday party and the house was full of balloons. Throwing a balloon in the air and hitting it with your hand keeping it up in the air and then trying to head it. As it came down again it was time to try and nose it back into the air. Then as you were projecting your nose forward that nasty cousin that always seemed to pest you, burst the balloon in your face. That is the feeling I had on Wednesday night after Rangers 2-1 defeat against Kilmarnock at Rugby park. After the win against Celtic on the 29th of December we have been floating on air. We probably could have reproduced a copy of Nina's big hit 99 red balloons calling it 55 red white and blue balloons. That is how high our hopes had risen, That floating on air feeling grew further when on the 12th minute Jermain Defoe gave us a deserved lead as we were all over Killie. Minutes later Alfredo Morelos crashed a header off the post that should have put us 2-0 up. Higher and higher we were flying. Then on 22 minutes, “ BAAAAMMMM” Joe Worrall got the ball in the last man position with acres of space and looked and waited, And waited. And waited, Then panic. He realised Eamon Brophy was only a few yards away and tried to turn back to the keeper. Too late, Brophy had picked his pocket and proceeded to plant the ball past McGregor into the net. Brophy had pricked the Rangers Balloon which created a huge vacuum amongst the players and the support. It must have been a helium balloon as it had the Kilmarnock fans killing themselves laughing to the end of the game. This changed the game completely and let Kilmarnock play their park the bus and hit on the break game.It just had to be Jordan Jones who clinched it for Killie. Due to signing a pre-contract for Rangers people said his heart would not be in the game. Unfortunately he showed more heart than the Rangers players. It looks like all those balloons were indeed red balloons. One with an extremely red face. Now is time for that old Cliche, 'We have to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down and move on'. On Sunday we travel to Livingston and go from red balloons to black rubber balls. Yes again we are playing on that infamous plastic pitch which throws up more rubber in one kick than a Chinese condom factory does in a year. I will get my rant over for this preview. These pitches should not be in football at this level. There that feels better. Stevie Gerrard has been criticised that he got his tactics wrong for the Killie game. After beating Celtic many thought he should have went with the same team but he decided to go with the four man diamond and play his two new signings Jermain Defoe and Steven Davis. Personally I think he did get it wrong as I am a big Ross McCrorie fan and I think he is the best ball winner we have. Ryan Jack also seems to lift his game with the knowledge that McCrorie is next to him. Davis and Defoe are obviously not match fit. I question whether we have the speed at the back to play that diamond shape. For that you need your backs creating the width and with McAuley, where a taxiing Boeing 777 turns quicker, we leave ourselves open to the counter attack behind the backs as Jorden Jones showed on Wednesday. Livingston will have the exact same tactics as they always do and it is virtually the same as Kilmarnock's in letting the back four pass the ball to each other and press the midfield and attacking players and wait for a mistake. This is the tactics that seem to get us time and time again. Personally I believe the best way to beat this is by using the wings so I certainly wouldn't be contemplating going with the midfield diamond shape. It would seem if you drop Candeias then you are also cutting out most of the danger Tavernier creates. I find it very difficult to find a place for Defoe and Morelos simply because we do not have the speed at the back to go to a 3-5-2 so for me it is a 4-2-3-1. McGregor Tavernier Goldson Katic Barisic McCrorie Jack Candeias Arfield Kent Morelos I really hate dropping Andy Halliday but I think Barisic will bring more to the team. I will also need to see Davis earning his starting place and not just being gifted it There is no more room for error we really have to start winning games as falling further behind Celtic will probably be the end of our title hopes. C'mon the Gers!!!
  20. With my big Kilmarnock bunnet? Ne'erday'68 was hugely exciting, Rangers new Manager, Davie White had the team playing open, expansive football. It was just as well, Rangers dismissal of Scot Symon the previous month had been controversial. Thirteen successful years were not enough, Jock Stein had arrived and his brand of winning football was perceived as modern. It was a stark dichotomy, Symon was blazer and flannels, Stein was strictly track suit; Symon blended players, Stein annotated blackboards and fitted players into his system. Rangers needed a modern manager to compete with Big Jock. White had coached Clyde to a third place finish the previous season, he had been appointed Rangers Assistant Manager just four months previous. After the Bells, Davie White's ten game tenure was brought to focus. Eight league games won, including a ten-2 demolition of Raith Rovers, and Cologne knocked out the Inter City Fairs Cup by a 6-1 aggregate. The day before, Rangers had journeyed to Pittodrie and won convincingly, 4-1. Goals were flowing, Our summer signing, (Sir) Alex Ferguson had notched nine in the period, Persson and Johnston achieved the same total between them. The next afternoon, Partick Thistle were battered 5-2, and the three games in four days culminated in a 2-2 draw at Celtic Park. Looking back, I blame my Uncle Eddie. He had been doing missionary work in Newmilns, Ayrshire for a dozen years. The deepest, darkest Lanarkshire/Ayrshire cross pollination downside, was having to listen to dear Eddie's Ne'erday interpretation of, 'My big Kilmarnock Bonnet'. Killie, under Wullie Waddell's tutelege, had won the League Championship two and half years before. Uncle Eddie was a convert. We would receive our comeuppance at Rugby Park at the penultimate game of the season. We traveled down to Ayrshire in sunshine. It was the last week of April and a New Year run of 14 games had seen 13 wins and a draw. We were level on points with Celtic, their goal average was better. The draw had occurred the previous midweek, a 3-3 draw at Cappielow, and Celtic were playing at the tail o' the bank whilst we took on Killie. Comparatively, the Rugby Park surface was deemed the best in the UK. The previous year, the then world cup holders, Brazil had based themselves in Troon, utilising the Juniors pitch in morning fitness sessions, but doing afternoon ball work at Rugby Park. I was excited, the pitch was akin to a bowling green, in those days Ibrox was a sand pit after Christmas. Primary school was finishing, and I knew I would begin Secondary supporting the Champions. Kilmarnock had a team of household names, King, Queen, McInally, McLean, McGrory, .... etc and 25,000 Bears had a quick intake of breath when Killie took the lead on the eleventh minute. Dave Smith and Andy Penman took control, both Henderson and Persson on either flank were seeing a lot of the ball. Our Swedish world cup semi-finalist scored a typical Orjan goal, working along the bye-line before shuffling the ball on to his weaker foot and slotting into the far corner. Drawing level before half time had everyone smiling, but Persson was clearly injured as he hobble off. The substitute was Alec Willoughby, cousin of Jim Forrest and a fine player. He scored the winner with a dozen minutes left to play. We turned our attention to the numerous Bears cradling large radios, 'what's the score at Cappielow'? It was 1-1 and remained so when the referee blew at Rugby Park. We were a point ahead with Aberdeen to play at Ibrox. We invaded the pitch, whooped in the sunshine for a few minutes; then news arrived that Lennox had scored a winner in injury time. The wailing began and continued the following Saturday when Rangers lost their only league game that season, the Dons winning 2-3. Uncle Eddie's party prophecy was wrong, we had triumphed in Kilmarnock. Another attendee at my parents' Hogmanay party was a near neighbour who played a significant part that day. The referee at Cappielow was John Paterson of Bothwell, he allowed a couple of injury time minutes and Lennox reportedly scored with the last kick of the ball. I suspect it is the fate of all ten year old lads to both whoop and wail within a few minutes, I cannot help but think a more timeous Mr Paterson should have possessed greater awareness? Celebrating a title win that never was, continues to live with you. I offer tomorrow night's game has the same importance? Our last game saw a first victory over the dominant Brendan Rodgers, the first in thirteen games. There is a momentum to be garnered, it's difficult because the fixture fates have Rangers visiting both Killie and Livi on two plastic pitches in the space of four days. Rugby Park's surface these days is arguably the worst in the top flight? We have had two players(Waghorn and Murphy) sustain long term injuries at the venue. We have to get on with it, we won handsomely in the league cup earlier in the season, courtesy of an Alfredo hat-trick. Tomorrow, we must take the game to them, right from the first whistle. Killie's offensive threat is diminished by the loss of Greg Stewart and Steve Clarke must be indecisive on playing Jordan Jones? Boyd and Burke might be obvious replacements, these days neither are going to run away from any defence. Thus, we must maintain a high press and line, do not allow them wide and the opportunity to throw the ball into our box. Clarke's success at Killie is well reported and much deserved; in the calendar year of 2018, he has accrued the most league points. I believe the foundation of Killie's continuing dominance lies with their midfield central pairing. Alan Power and Gary Dicker are real deal professionals. The Dublin born duo are the wrong side of thirty, but get around the pitch with purpose. They play on the legitimate side of legal, tough tackling, winning it, and feeding the ball wide. Opposition teams attacking, quickly have to find their defensive feet when hitting the Power and Dicker wall. Our team will probably mirror the starting eleven against Helsinki? The evidence was Morelos pushed wider, mostly left and Kent abdicating width for the front point of the diamond. Attacks broke down and two quick passes wide and back in, found Helsinki on the edge of our box. I would hope we go with a more recognisable system and team : McGregor, Tavernier, Worral, McAuley, Halliday, Jack, Davis, Kent, Arfield, Candeias, and Morelos. I would leave Defoe to the final 20-30 minutes. I prefer whooping to wailing, 3-1 to the Bears; another Morelos hat-trick(four goals) would suffice. We MUST win it.
  21. RANGERSTV subscribers will be able to watch Sunday’s match with HJK at Ibrox live from anywhere in the world. https://rangers.co.uk/news/rangers-tv/hjk-live-for-all-subscribers/
  22. It's been a long, hard six months for Rangers players. Yes, they might not work the kind of gruelling shifts many of our fans do and they all earn a lot more than most of us can even dream about but the best part of 40 games in less than six months is still a big physical and mental test. After Saturday's game we will have played 38 matches - the same as our whole domestic league season. That cannot be downplayed. With that in mind, our lack of form recently is best explained by that incredible schedule of matches. Some players are clearly tired and we've lost several important players to injury as well. Meanwhile, if we look poor tactically that can be explained by a lack of training time - especially during the last month. This isn't excuse making as some of our poor play is far from acceptable but a pragmatic examination of the facts. The Hibs draw was a good example of this. Fans, myself included, were understandably disappointed as we lost another late goal to drop two crucial points. After a fairly decent first half, we didn't do as well after the break. In the opening period, we played with pace, tempo and quality and didn't allow Hibs into the game at all - although Allan McGregor did have two good saves on the stroke of half-time. The second half was different. Due to injuries we couldn't maintain the same tempo and certainly not the high press we had used to good effect. The defence sat too deep and the gaps between them, the midfield and Morelos became too big. We lost possession cheaply and couldn't support the Colombian. As such, Hibs came into the game both in terms of possession and territory. Yet until their late equaliser, they didn't really threaten whilst we, again, should have scored at least once more to make the points safe. Although the fans didn't enjoy our containment game, it was generally working and our counter-attacking should have yielded another goal. Instead, it was Hibs that took the sole chance they created and again we were left ruing what could and should have been. Unfortunately for some, I don't see us being tactically any different against Celtic. Although the quality in the Scottish Premiership seems to have improved this season (and the table does suggest that) our budget is second only to Celtic so, busy schedule or not, we should be more consistent in terms of performances and results. Yes, we absolutely should expect Rangers teams to dominate against (most) teams at Ibrox but we should be sensible enough to acknowledge other factors can affect the way we play and the outcome. To that end, although our Europa League adventure has now ended we're still paying for that run and the winter break can't come quickly enough. As such, while we're hoping for a high tempo again tomorrow and wish to take the game to our opponents, it simply won't happen for the whole match - even if we're playing well. Celtic will have periods of the ball, will create chances and will push us back. Both the players and the fans have to accept that and deal with it. Most importantly, if we're to play on the counter then we must take any chances that come our way at any point of the game. In terms of the team, further knocks and niggles from the last few weeks may effect the manager's selection again tomorrow but I am hopeful one or two key players can make it. For example, I think Scott Arfield may just start the game and his attacking play would be vital in a team that's struggled to make their scoring chances count of late. Other than that it will be a case of seeing who is fittest, who is most confident and who wants to stand up and be counted for the manager. For all the disappointment of the other night, he will have been pleased with the efforts of Ryan Jack and Ross McCrorie in the middle of the park and they will be important again tomorrow. Meanwhile, Joe Worrall and Andy Halliday did very well in defence for the vast majority of the game against Hibs so we need not risk the likes of Wallace or McAuley. I also don't expect a change of formation. Many fans are frustrated with the 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 we tend to use but the majority of the time it does work - especially against more expansive opposition - so it would be a surprise to see us change tomorrow. Once again, arguably the biggest decision for the manager will be who to play in the attacking roles. Lafferty played wide left in the game at Celtic Park but didn't do much in an attacking sense. Interestingly Candeias didn't start that game and we seemed to miss his work-rate on the right flank. Will the likes of Kent be a surprise inclusion or should we persevere with the dangerous - though very raw - Glenn Middleton? No matter the team, getting a result against Celtic is a big ask. The remain clear favourites for the SPFL title and, despite some struggles this season, remain a dangerous side full of attacking threat. As such, we'll need to work very hard throughout the team and we simply must take any chances we can create. As fans, we'll also need to be patient, support the side throughout and help the players through this final hurdle ahead of a well deserved few weeks rest and recuperation. The last six years have been extremely difficult for us all. We're all absolutely desperate to bring back success to the club and often I think that desperation means we can be unreasonable in our expectations. This season has seen us progress and some poor results shouldn't mask that. On the other hand, it would be daft to ignore the issues that persist so the management team has much work to do as we enter 2019. However, we are getting there and we just have to appreciate our return to the top won't happen overnight. If we can add a few new players and some extra much needed quality then we should be even happier by the end of the season. In the here and now though, a win on Saturday against our oldest rivals would be one large step forward and a huge boost to morale and belief. Here's to one more push before a well earned rest for us all. Let's hope 2019 is a prosperous one! Possible team (4-2-3-1):
  23. The games keep coming thick and fast and the latest has Hibs visiting Ibrox on Boxing Day with a 3pm KO (UK time). Like the previous game and the one to follow, this sees another hugely important and significant 3 points at stake. After our crucial and notable late comeback at St. Johnstone, it would be typical of this December if we were to drop points in the next match because we don't seem able to do consistency. This game is where that needs to change if we want to harbour any hopes of providing a title challenge. The first half of the season has seen a gruelling but welcome non-stop timetable of games, with 3 International breaks providing some respite for some in the squad. It is now ending with a particularly heavy block of fixtures and it's therefore no surprise to see an extensive injury list going into the final two games of 2018. In short, over the next 2 games Steven Gerrard & Co need to get more out of a squad of bare bones than they previously have from a fuller squad. - Tav is looking tired but gives 100% and still provides creativity. - Central defence has become an issue and just when we seem to settle on a partnership, McAuley gets injured. - The Barisic injury is a huge blow IMO and you now have Boyle and Forrest licking their lips. The midfield and wide areas have taken a real hit. On top of the long term injuries and departures, we have at least question marks over Arfield, Jack, Kent, Rossiter, Grezda and Coulibaly for either injury, poor form or a lack of gametime. It's just as well that we have Morelos and Lafferty up front. Any debate over formation/playing them both may be decided due to lack of midfield options. For all the criticism Alfredo gets regards his discipline, you have to marvel at how over a heavy season and a half at Ibrox he doesn't seem to pick up injuries; the guy is a machine. Steven Gerrard mentioned an adaptable approach and one option is to play Lafferty and being able to switch between a deeper role and one closer to Morelos (only an option if the Ulster Gazelle is fully fit). If Jack is fit then he'll surely start and that may in turn push Halliday back to LB. McGregor Tavernier - Goldson - Worral - Wallace Candeias - McCrorie - Halliday - Middleton Lafferty Morelos Hibs haven't been playing that well of late and we should have taken all 3 points from Easter Road last week. However they often raise their game at Ibrox and I'd expect them to again. Recent history has seen this fixture providing goals (except for last week) and no team with a clear upper hand regards wins. In my opinion, it's one of those games that could go any way, but if we can up our conversion rate then I think we win. Prior to the 2 goals in 25 minutes on Sunday, we'd scored 2 in 550 minutes; hopefully, we have turned a corner. Certainly Lafferty is due a goal. Am I right thinking he's started to celebrate goals in the last three matches, only to be halted by a bad offside decision at Dundee, a great save by the Hibs keeper and a somewhat unfortunate deflection and save at St. Johnstone? I call upon the footballing gods to give big Laff a deserved break!
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