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  1. "It is a case of taking each game as it comes, there is no point trying to plan too far ahead than the next game at the moment." Sitting top of both the Scottish Premiership and our Europa League group, still unbeaten in all competitions and with a goal difference that is unmatched in world football, means many Rangers fans are rightly confident at the moment: as are the players and that assurance has been reflected on the pitch. However, the quote above from Rangers manager Steven Gerrard ahead of our return European match with Benfica on Thursday night was wise indeed. Nothing has been won yet, and, as we've seen at various clubs domestically and abroad, the global pandemic can quickly change matters at any club. That's not to be pessimistic or unduly negative. With Celtic struggling for form and their fans arguing amongst themselves regarding their board and manager, SPFL matters could barely be better for Rangers. Top of the table by 11 points and having only conceded three goals has us in a fantastic position and, despite a tough sequence of matches to come through December, this Rangers side shows no sign of buckling. Our European campaign has been similarly impressive. Again we currently sit top of the group - albeit on the same points as Thursday's opponents - and only two late goals in Portugal have stopped us from being further ahead. Yet, it was that late capitulation, against the ten men of Benfica, that shows positive situations can turn bad and quickly. The game in Lisbon was a strange one. Rangers couldn't have started any worse with a mistake from the usually reliable Helander gifting a goal after just 60secs. The following 15 minutes were also a struggle and it wasn't until Otamendi's 19th minute red card that the tide turned for us. A quick equaliser followed by taking the lead with a superb team goal just a minute later meant the team grew in confidence and played with a swagger you rarely see from Scottish teams away in Europe. A 51st minute third goal had us on easy street and right up until Benfica pulled one back in the 77th minute, Rangers played with an accomplished manner which took us back to the days of Dick Advocaat's expensively assembled team. Yet, incredibly (and it still hurts three weeks later) we contrived to throw what looked a comfortable win away. A lack of concentration, an over-confidence, positional errors - call it what you will, we succumbed to a third late goal and two points were dropped. Thankfully the reaction since has been impressive. Hamilton Acas were swatted aside before the international break and Aberdeen dismissed by four goals upon our return: 12 goals scored, zero conceded. That shows a team annoyed by events in Portugal and focussed on righting the wrongs from that night, alongside any other perceived weaknesses from previous campaigns. Let's hope the same mindset is used on Thursday night, especially with Benfica weakened by suspension, injury and Covid issues. The loss of Otamendi, Weigl, Taarabt and the first game changer Nunez means opportunity knocks once again... In terms of our team, the manager has pretty much a fully fit squad to choose from. Jack may have a late fitness test but only he and Zungu may be unavailable out of our European squad. That means two possible outlooks for the manager: does he continue with the more aggressive setup to his team that we've seen by and large domestically or a slightly more cautious strategy? For example, although Jack's availability may force Gerrard's hand somewhat, does he utilise Davis, Kamara and Arfield as his deeper three with Kent, Roofe and Morelos a very attacking front three. Or, as we seen in Lisbon, will Aribo be preferred to Roofe (or indeed Morelos) in one of the advanced roles? With other options such as Brandon Barker (no stranger to starting European games) and Ianis Hagi (who looked sharp in his late cameo against Aberdeen) the manager also has the element of surprise should he choose it. No selection shocks are likely defensively. Filip Helander had the proverbial nightmare in the first fixture but usually offers the kind of calm presence that is required in such fixtures. That will mean Balogun again dropping out but we're lucky to have the Nigerian international defender with his form impressive when called upon. At 'full-back', Barisic and Tavernier should provide their usual threat in wide areas but will need to stay switched on defensively when Benfica inevitably have periods on the ball and/or on the counter. Just like in Portugal, Aberdeen also showed in the first half on Sunday that we do leave gaps from time to time that can be exploited so care must be taken to provide cover. Nevertheless, thus far this season, Rangers have passed all tests with flying colours. Yes, mistakes have been made, daft goals conceded and points dropped. Yet, the overall picture has been that of obvious progress with obstacles that previously caused us issues hurdled with relative ease. Group stage qualification may not be certain with three points from Thursday's game but it will provide just one more indication that, although the bulk of this Rangers team remains familiar, there is a new belief within it; along with a desire and winning mentality that every successful team needs. Nothing has been won at this stage, and poor results will surely happen at some point, but this Rangers team have shown they can lead from the front and that must continue this week and into next month. So yes, as the manager says, let's take each match as it comes but, as other clubs question their challenge let's keep the pressure on home and away. Possible Starting XI:
  2. In the absence of a written preview, why not join @Govan Rear Bear and @Gizmo231 for a video preview of Sunday's big game on our YouTube channel - live at 10pm tonight! Check out the tweet below for a cheeky wee promo from Colin inviting you to join him and David later...
  3. No written preview I'm afraid but @Gizmo231 and @Fat Eck have put together an excellent audio one which you can grab across our usual channels.
  4. An early Friday press conference to kick off our weekend lads. If anyone fancies putting together a written match preview for this or future games, it would be greatly appreciated.
  5. After yet another win, yet another clean sheet and yet another match without an opposition shot on target, it wasn't really a surprise to see Steven Gerrard get frustrated with one journalist in the post-Poznan presser when asked about Rangers managing to win despite not playing well in a supposed '7/10 performance'. The manager's sharp retort was understandable: yes, we may not always be at our very best in every game but that need not mean we played badly, just that the opposition can be of a standard to provide an actual contest where grit, hard work and patience can be just as important as composure, technique and wonder goals from the half-way line. In that respect, Rangers have not been found lacking this season. There has been an undoubted addition of quality into our play in general but industry and organisation have been just as important in several games which is why, so far at least, no-one has beaten us. Of course we've not been at our best in every game - that's impossible - but it's easy to forget we've played our nearest challengers of Celtic, Hibs and Aberdeen all away from home with only two points dropped out of the nine available and that, arguably was down to an avoidable error, compounded by an offside equaliser. Meanwhile, at Parkhead and Pittodrie, we controlled the games and again, without being fantastic, deservedly won both. There have also been some weak arguments that Rangers are a one-trick pony, capable of playing just the one way and struggling to adapt in certain situations. A 0-0 draw at Livingston in mid August could certainly provide evidence of such a point of view, as well as several games under Gerrard in previous seasons, but this campaign seems different. Rangers absolutely do have a game-plan of course but that's not to say we're predictable. For example, the manager clearly prefers a 4-3-3 but that can vary depending on the venue and the opposition. We sometimes prefer the 4-2-3-1 variation, often used in European games away from home to counter attack with a lower block but we're equally comfortable with a 4-3-2-1 which allows to push our wing backs much further up the park and look to dominate games with a higher press. Clearly, personnel choice within both systems can also affect our strategy and the acquisition of players like Roofe, Itten and Zungu - as well as an obvious difference in what has been asked of Alfredo Morelos - means the management team have put a lot of thought into tactical flexibility. With that in mind, as usual, a trip to Rugby Park will be a stern test of all our abilities. Killie will be well organised, physical, dangerous on the counter and eager to puncture our increasing morale. Does that mean we look to match them in midfield with the oft-criticised partnership of Jack and Kamara going toe to toe with Power and Dicker? Do we push our full-backs forward and leave gaps for the likes of Burke, Kiltie and Brophy? Which centre-half should deal with the physical presence of Nicke Kabamba? How best can we expose changes to their defence after their loss to injury of former Hearts centre-back Clevid Dikamona? What effect, if any, should the pitch and forecast stormy weather have on our selection? All these questions aren't easy to answer which demonstrates Rangers are flexible. And, our starting XIs from the last two games show the manager will make changes where necessary with five in the matches at Liege and against Livi as well. However, it could be argued our performances in those two games have been somewhat disjointed at times so, chances are there will be less for Sunday. Change one should see a return to the left side of central defence for Filip Helander whom has been rotated with Leon Balogun of late. Despite an injury keeping the big Swede out for the best part of nine months, he has featured twice on artificial surfaces this season so his aerial presence and calmness at the back may be preferred this weekend. The rest of the defence should be as expected, barring any knocks from the Lech Poznan win. Calvin Bassey is just one backup player who has done very well when called upon and his physical presence may well be used at some point this weekend. Midfield should see one further change with Ryan Jack a likely starter in what I'd expect to be a three on Sunday as part of a 4-3-2-1. I'd fancy Glen Kamara will be part of that trio with Scott Arfield retained to provide a threat running from deeper areas. Although new signing Bongani Zungu may well be looked to in such games going forward, his lack of match sharpness make him an unlikely starter this weekend. Steven Davis will most probably be rested after playing the last two full matches and I believe Joe Aribo will be used in one of the two number 10 roles this system utilises. That leaves two more roles to fill in the XI and most probably one further change with Alfredo Morelos, fresh off Thursday night's header winner, likely to lead the line backed up by the afore-mentioned Joe Aribo and the ever-reliable Ryan Kent. The latter hasn't quite been in the same top form he showed earlier in the season but continues to contribute in a defensive sense which will be important against a team like Killie who are comfortable on the counter. However, if the manager does fancy one more change then Brandon Barker or Jordan Jones could start with both doing decent jobs lately. Their selection may well depend on the system deployed and as much as I'm favouring the 4-3-2-1, our 5-1 win at Motherwell one month ago shows a 4-2-3-1 can be just as effective. All things considered, it's a big bonus for all connected with Rangers to have so many options available and the standard of the squad testament to how far we've come under Gerrard. Our form so far this season has shown further improvement and only the most churlish of supporters would be unhappy with where we sit right now. However, with a yellow Met Office warning for rain and wind, Rangers will need to weather another Killie storm on Sunday afternoon with the outcome being just one more indication of our chances of silverware on the SPFL pressure barometer. Will the dodgy 4G surface of Rugby Park display another artificial title challenge from Rangers or is this, finally, the real thing? Possible team (4-3-2-1):
  6. The teenage "pitbull" who Rangers must muzzle to end Standard Liege's six year unbeaten home run in Europe RANGERS have been warned they will have to muzzle the teenage “pitbull” who has taken Belgian football by storm this season to stand any chance of ending Standard Liege’s remarkable 15 game unbeaten run at home in Europe. Steven Gerrard’s side play their opening Europa League group game against Philippe Montanier’s team in the Stade Maurice Dufrasne tomorrow evening and have high hopes of getting off to a winning start. The Ibrox club have done well away from home against foreign opposition in recent seasons and have recorded impressive results against the likes of Braga, Feyenoord, Legia Warsaw, Porto, Villarreal and Willem II. Yet, Liege, who drew 1-1 with Jupiler Pro League leaders Club Brugge at home on Saturday, promise to be as difficult to overcome as any outfit they have faced on their travels since returning to continental competition three years ago. The Reds last suffered a defeat in their Sclessin stadium in Europe way back in 2014 and in the last seven seasons they have beaten or drawn with rivals as renowned as Ajax, Arsenal, Celta Vigo, Eintracht Frankfurt and Sevilla. Arsenal, who drew 2-2 with Liege in the Europa League group stages last term, are the only side to have taken a point off them at their intimidating 27,670 capacity arena in their last nine outings. Whoever plays for the Glasgow club in midfield out of Scott Arfield, Steven Davis, Ryan Jack and Glen Kamara looks set to have a particularly demanding evening. New manager Montanier, who has previously had spells in charge of Valenciennes, Real Sociedad, Rennes, Nottingham Forest and Lens, has shown he is unafraid to give youth a chance since being brought in back in June. Nicolas Raskin, a combative, creative, tough-tackling and industrious presence in the centre of the park, has repaid the faith the experienced French coach has shown in him and then some. “Standard are doing well this season,” said Bob Faesen of Belgian newspaper Het Belang van Limburg. “They drew with Brugge, who are the best team in Belgium, after scoring a controversial late penalty at the weekend, but it was a fair result. They have got a new coach and a lot of good young players. “Raskin has come in to the side. He was at Gent before Liege and made his debut there as a 16-year-old. After that he didn’t push on and play. But he has been given his chance at Standard this season and he has taken it. “He is still only 19, but he has really shone. He is a box-to-box midfielder. He can play in every position in the middle of the park. He is technically gifted, but he is also a bit of a pitbull. He can run a lot, is powerful and has a good shot. He has been one of the big surprises in Belgium football this season and will be a key player for Liege who Rangers will need to be wary of.” However, it isn’t just the Rangers midfielders who can expect a torrid 90 minutes in their opening Group D fixture – their striker will have his work cut out getting past a gifted young defender who has been tipped to become the next superstar of Belgian football. “The most important player for Liege is Zinho Vanheusden,” said Faesen. “He is only 21, but he is the Standard captain now. He is a real leader. He is one of the biggest talents in country. He won his first cap for the national team in a friendly against the Ivory Coast earlier this month. “He was bought from Inter Milan last year, but he will go back there next year. It is kind of a loan deal. He was brought in to help out with Inter’s financial fair play problems and so they could bring in Romelu Lukaka from Manchester United. “He was brought in to Standard for a €12.5m fee, a Belgian record, last year, but he will go back to Inter for €20m next year. He is seen by many people as the successor to Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen. Everybody expects him to be in the national team for a long time in the coming years.” Faesen added: “A lot of the time Liege set up with three at the back, in a 3-4-3 formation, but they have versatile, flexible players who are adaptable and they can change formation during the course of a match. Having an individual like Raskin, who can perform a number of roles, enables them to do that. “They are more attack-minded than defensive. They like to press teams high up the park. But they have conceded the fewest shots on goal in the Belgian league this season so that shows they are strong at the back as well.” Up front, however, Montanier doesn’t have quite the same quality at his disposal as he does elsewhere. Selim Amallah, the Moroccan midfielder who has netted six times in the 2020/21 campaign, is his leading scorer. But three of his strikes came from the penalty spot. “Liege’s problem is they don’t have a real goalscorer,” said Faesen. “Obbi Oulare, who played for Watford, has played up front, but he has had a lot of injury problems. The same is true of Felipe Avenatti, the Uruguayan. “On Saturday Liege played Mikel Ange Balikwisha, who is also quite young and is more of a winger. But Oulare and Avenatti were unavailable so it was either him or nothing. Elsewhere, Jackson Muleka is also out injured.” Standard Liege were in real danger of being demoted to the fourth tier of Belgian football earlier this year due to serious financial problems which were exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak and football shutdown. They were denied their professional licence by their national federation due to outstanding payments to players and only won it back after appealing to the country’s court of sports arbitration. Multi-million euro loans from famous former players Marouane Fellaini and Axel Witsel as well as a substantial investment from local pharmaceutical magnate Francois Fornieri, who bought 50 per cent of the shares, saved them from oblivion. Rangers, despite their impressive showings in Europe since Steven Gerrard was appointed manager and fine recent form, can’t bank on a result in the Stade Maurice Dufrasne this week unless they perform at their very best. https://www.heraldscotland.com/sport/18809407.teenage-pitbull-rangers-must-muzzle-end-standard-lieges-six-year-unbeaten-home-run-europe/
  7. It's fair to say Rangers supporters' apathy to international breaks has been increasingly noticeable over the last ten years. The 'journey', including an obvious lack of quality players for several years since we were demoted to 2012, meant few Rangers players were involved at that level. Other than Lee Wallace on our return to the top league, few Rangers players stood out enough to be considered good enough to play for Scotland, whilst the other foreign players we recruited were hardly top of their country's class either. Fortunately, as the Rangers team progresses and evolves so does our squad's opportunities at that higher level. Ryan Jack has shown up well enough for Scotland of late to play regularly under Steve Clarke and the likes of Borna Barisic and Glen Kamara are considered first choice for their country. Add in the record-breaking NI internationalist Steven Davis and new signings such as Cedric Itten and Leon Balogun then there's no coincidence that our results are getting better as the squad improves. However, that good news does become worrisome in terms of increased injury risk and, nowadays, concerns related to Covid exposure whilst travelling. Indeed, if we add our other internationalists Morelos, Helander, Hagi, McLaughlin, Jones, Arfield and even youngsters such as Patterson and Middleton to that risk assessment then poking fun at Celtic's recent Covid issues soon becomes a bad idea. Nevertheless, their pandemic problems are relevant when it comes to discussing this weekend's first Old Firm game of the season and we can also consider ourselves fortunate to be playing at an empty Parkhead with fans still not permitted to attend games across Scotland and the UK. As it stands, their favoured striker Odsonne Eduoard is still self-isolating in France and won't arrive back until Friday at the earliest. Meanwhile, other first team players such as Ryan Christie, Nir Bitton, James Forrest and Hatem Abd Elhamed cannot play and top-scorer Albian Ajeti is also struggling with injury. Celtic do have a large squad though with several other decent options throughout their team. The likes of Griffiths, Jullien and Elyounoussi may not have been first choice this season but have caused Rangers problems in previous meetings. For our part, although we don't have any Covid-related issues (for now!) we do have some doubts as well. Last week, Filip Helander was sent back from the Sweden squad early due to a knock and Borna Barisic hasn't featured for Croatia either since going off injured against Ross County ten days ago. Moreover, although Kemar Roofe may well be available for Saturday's match, Joe Aribo is perhaps still a week or two away, Niko Katic remains a long term absentee and it's unlikely new loan signing Bongani Zungu will be ready to feature. Steven Gerrard will certainly be hoping Helander and Barisic both make it at the very least as, although Balogun and Calvin Bassey have shown up fairly well since arriving in the summer, it would be a slight concern to start with two Old Firm debutants on the left side of our back four this weekend. Even if this were to happen though, Rangers should be rightly confident ahead of the game. A solid 2-1 win at Parkhead pre-winter shutdown last season and a decent start across this campaign means morale is high amongst our supporters and one must think the manager and players also feel assured. Yes, it should be noted we were in a similar position this time last season (three league wins out of three and freshly qualified for the Europa League group stage) ahead of a home loss against Celtic but one would hope lessons have been learned in terms of that result. Interestingly, neither Helander, Barisic nor Morelos started in that defeat with Rangers also struggling tactically throughout. With that in mind, Gerrard's starting line up will be fascinating on Saturday. Will those with knocks make it? Will Morelos return in good time from international duty in Chile? Who will form the midfield with Davis, Jack and Kamara all in action for their countries? Who will the manager pick behind his striker: can we expect Barker, Hagi or Jones? What about the system: a 4-2-3-1 or our more familiar 4-3-3? Shall we sit deeper and look to hit on the counter ala our European style or take the game to a weakened Celtic (both personnel and support wise)? Although these questions may well be causing the manager some sleepless nights ahead of Saturday, it wouldn't be a proper preview without giving my own opinion and, in fact, as long as our most utilised players are available, then I think the team is fairly easy to pick. Our defence has been very good by and large this season so the back five picks itself with McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Helander and Barisic more than capable of offering a suitable protection to whatever Celtic threats are selected. The midfield is slightly less easy to predict but if, as seems likely, the manager opts for a 4-3-3 system, then Davis and Kamara should start leaving one of Ryan Jack or Scott Arfield as the third man. I'd expect the Canadian to be given the nod though depending on what part Jack plays for Scotland in their match with the Czech Republic. The fitness and freshness of our engine room will be vital given the bulk of Celtic's likely starters of Brown, Ntcham and McGregor have had a fortnight's break. Suffice to say we will need to match their energy across the whole 90mins to obtain a positive result and the manager must get the balance right between defensive cover and attacking support. Further forward will be equally important if we're to win the game. The impressive Ryan Kent is a certain starter in the free role we've seen him become accustomed to of late and the manager has plenty other options as well in attack. It may divide opinion but I'd expect Brandon Barker to make his first Old Firm start as the second number 10 and, despite his struggles for form so far this season, Alfredo Morelos arguably remains our first choice focal point. Ianis Hagi will also been keen to make his Old Firm debut and his level of assists this season and guile in key areas could see him given the nod over Barker. Again, the Romanian's inclusion against Austria tonight may well determine his status. Jordan Jones was sent off as a late sub this time last year and is an outside chance to start unless the manager fancies more of a 4-2-3-1. We do have other attacking options in Jermain Defoe, Cedric Itten and, possibly, Kemar Roofe but despite Defoe contributing to two Old Firm wins at Ibrox in 2018/19, it's unlikely he'll start. Itten looked sharp and healthy in a late cameo for Switzerland against Germany on Tuesday night but would be a gamble to make the XI on his Old Firm debut. And, as much as Kemar Roofe's generic experience of big games will be useful going forward this season, no games in a month means a place on the bench is surely the best he can hope for? All in all, I think the main thread from this preview we should take is one of progress. Rangers are still not the finished article under Steven Gerrard but, despite our fans continued apathy when it comes to international football, our players' involvement in such games is an indicator of our squad's overall quality. It's also a positive that the manager can draw from an improved pool of players as we look to compete on four fronts again this season. In conclusion though, the biggest barometer of all remains how we fare against Celtic. Despite a superb win at Parkhead last season and largely dominating in the League Cup Final at Hampden, where it counted it was Celtic that came through: firstly at Ibrox last September then winning the Cup Final despite going down to ten men for the final 30mins (offside winner or not) and again after that New Year loss when we lost all momentum. Therefore the onus remains on us to demonstrate we can be successful and offer a title challenge: not just at this stage of the season or before the winter break but right through until next May. Ultimately, Celtic were handed the league trophy last season on a Covid technicality but we still had it all to do to turn things around then. Seven months later, it's Celtic that are suffering from pandemic negativity so we must take advantage. A win on Saturday could be the first step to tangible success on what has been a long road to redemption. This Rangers team are capable and now must deliver. Possible team (4-3-3):
  8. Presser currently taking place Injury update: Itten: Major doubt with 'small' knee problem Jack: Back in full training Barker: Back in full training Aribo: Progressing well Roofe: Progressing well
  9. Introduction Dubbed by some Rangers fans Willem II vs William's 11, although Thursday's game will be the first ever meeting of the two historic clubs there is a strange feeling of familiarity about this early season Europa League clash. Again, Rangers’ opening Europa League fixture involved a trip to Gibraltar to play on the same plastic pitch, with almost the exact same result. Coincidentally, our Dutch opponents met our 2nd round opponents of last year, Progrès Niederkorn, and dispatched of them with the same 5-0 scoreline. And whilst it was later in the competition we met a Dutch side last season, pundits will draw strong comparisons between Willem II and last season’s 3rd round opponents, FC Midtjylland. As another young, up-and-coming side await, Steven Gerrard will be hoping for a similar outcome and a chance to set up a tasty tie with Turkish giants Galatasaray, almost 20 years to the day from their last visit to Ibrox in September 2000 when they were the holders of this cup (in its previous incarnation). The Opposition Whereas our potential opponents in the next round have gone from being a European powerhouse to something of a relic of a bygone era, Willem II have gone from seemingly permanent mediocrity to being the rising star of Dutch football. Barring a couple of short-lived purple patches, including a solitary appearance in the UEFA Champions League group stage in 2000, Willem II have historically been a bottom half to mid-table side. But since the appointment of World Cup finalist Joris Mathijsen to the position of Technical Director, they have gradually worked their way up the table from 16th to 5th, their highest finish since 2000 and 3rd highest finish in 65 years. Remarkably, this was achieved with a team of kids, and this is the secret to Joris Mathijsen’s success. What propelled Willem II from bottom-half mediocrity to the top table of Dutch football was primarily a very high success rate in the transfer market, picking up very young talent for small fees and giving them a platform to succeed in a free-flowing, attacking side. But if it wasn’t for the sale of Champions League finalist Frenkie De Jong from Ajax to Barcelona for £66m last summer, their steady progress wouldn’t have accelerated as much as it did last season. Counter intuitively, Willem II let the crown jewel of their youth academy join the top side in Holland for 1 Euro in 2015. In a sign of the times, Willem II resigned themselves to losing a future star to a bigger club for nothing. But only on one condition, a 10% sell on clause was inserted into his contract. The resulting windfall allowed Willem II to rebuild, and only 4 players from the 18/19 season kept their place in the starting 11. What resulted was an energetic, young side who took everyone by surprise by establishing themselves as a serious threat even to the top 4. Last season, Ajax had annihilated everyone who visited the Johan Cruiff Arena until, in a masterclass of counter-attacking football, Willem II shocked the league with a 2-0 win there in December 2019. 2nd place AZ Alkmaar wouldn’t be laughing for long though as the following month they would suffer the same fate at their home ground, with Willem II running out with a 3-1 win. The Tilburg side may be very young and inexperienced, but on their day they have shown that they can beat anyone. The Dangermen Willem II’s youthful front line carries a lot of threat. 21 year old Greek forward Vangelis Pavlidis leads the line. He is technically very good, links up very well with the attacking midfielders and carries the ball well too. He has had a good start to the season and grabbed a brace against Progres and then Heracles a few days later. Directly behind him, you have arguably the star of the team in 21 year old Trésor Ndayishimiye. The Belgian youth international is technically excellent and very dangerous dribbling with the ball, playing through balls and shooting from the edge of the box with both feet. His talent hasn’t gone unnoticed, with reports that Leeds and Wolves are considering making offers. The other significant threat in the Willem II side comes from former Ajax youth player Che Nunnely, who plays as the right sided attacking midfielder. The 21 year old is known for his blistering pace, which will be a danger on the counter attack, but his double in the 2-1 win over PSV last season showed he can finish too. Rangers The set back at Easter Road will be a distant memory for Gerrard as he refocuses his team on the hugely important task of replicating the remarkable feat of previous seasons and reaching the group stages of this tournament. Gerrard has rightly earned a reputation as a European specialist and Rangers fans have every reason to trust him to deliver again in the Netherlands. Injuries to key players Joe Aribo, Kemar Roofe and Ryan Jack are a big blow at this crucial stage of the season, but largely take away the selection headache Gerrard might have otherwise had. Arfield has relished the opportunity to get back into the starting 11 and his performances against Midtjylland last season won’t have been forgotten by the gaffer. And although Hagi’s creativity is often key to creating chances, Kent’s relentlessness in closing players down and winning the ball back could be even more important against opposition who aren’t used to much aggression. Midtjylland struggled with the aggressive press of Rangers and it ultimately played a large part in their undoing, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Gerrard tried to do the same here Verdict Midtjylland were a side who were known for their technical ability and attacking flair, but whose defensive frailties were quite shocking to a Rangers support who are used to facing sides with no attacking flair whatsoever but whose defensive discipline would make Tony Pulis jealous. Willem II’s centre backs are decent, Swedish international Holmen in particular, but their full backs will be targeted and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Rangers finding some joy down the flanks. And whilst they carry a lot of threat, this Tilburg side are very young, inexperienced and will likely struggle with the physical side of the game. Without being complacent, Gerrard will have a gameplan which, if executed properly, will teach another young attacking side a lesson in European football. Predicted Score Willem II 1-3 Rangers Predicted Starting 11
  10. Gun pointed at his sitting target, McCauley demands “look at me.” Waingro sniffles and blubbers, terrified to look up. McCauley growls. “Look at me.” Waingro slowly raises his head just as everything falls out his arse and his lights are switched off. That, McCauley thinks, will teach him to wear a fu**ing Craig Whyte mask to a Scottish Cup tie (or something similar – I haven’t memorised the lines). Last time Dundee United were at Ibrox they brought the biggest support they’ve ever had in our place, split evenly as a neutral venue, and it was one of those few times I’ve seen Rangers play above themselves domestically, post-Souness, and lose. No. Sorry. Scrub that. As of 5pm last Saturday, the last time Dundee United played at Ibrox there were no fans of either club present, locked out because of Covid-19, and the 4-0 doing they escaped with flattered them almost as much as the gloating attention we as a support granted their relegation from the top flight - at Dens Park by Dundee (sat helpless on your sofa in your bathrobe) - and their subsequent promotion play-off failures against Hamilton, Livingston and, on penalties, St Mirren (two to the chest; one to the skull) over four of the last five years. Four goals, but it should have been five-nil. Four injuries, but it should have been five-nil. Ryan Kent maintains his goal-every-second-game ratio of this season and Tav, in the armband, maintains his goal-every-five-games ratio in the 250th appearance of his five year Rangers career, and it’s all over by half-time. Kemar Roofe brilliantly poaches a Scotty Arfield drive and then Scotty needs no poachers as he finishes off a sublime team drive: Goldson picking, Ryan twisting and flicking, Hagi slicking his way down whatever avenue hurts them most, again; what a counter-attack – what a goal - Four-nil: Look at me. Look. At. Me. A regal Stevie G, a studious Neil McCann, a freezing Emma Dodds and the world’s only balding, retired 12-year-old, Alan Hutton, can estimate all they like, on a Tyldesley-less Rangers TV, how many more we should have scored on Saturday. I can confirm we were just one shy. It might be a dish best served cold but by the time Rangers get round to serving up some revenge, it’s usually freezing and it’s usually by five clear goals. It was nice winning 3-0 at Pittodrie under Pedro. But we were under the cosh for most of that game and it amounted to little more than paying off some of the interest still being accumulated. The 5-0 we did them by at Ibrox last September felt like the moment we put the sheepish types back in their pen for putting us out both cups, simply by being organised, and the concomitant McInnes embarrassment. That five-goal trouncing began taking chunks out the principal sum they’re owed. That was young Vito Corleone/Andolini, carving up his parents’ murderer, Don Ciccio, in Godfather II. Hearts continue to give us problems at Tynecastle. But by the time they put us out the Scottish Cup this February, their annoyances were already heading inexorably back to “crumbs from the master’s table” category. We’d just progressed to the last 16 of the Europa League and, after beating them in all four league fixtures in Gerrard’s first season, at Ibrox last December the maroon buffoons got done 5-0. In that game it was almost like the Hearts died but Rangers did far more than survive. Wouldn’t you agree, my ingrate Jambo friends whose team we applauded round the Parkhead pitch after they left us trophy-less in 1997-98 and whose club we kept alive for decades by packing their death trap open terracing off Gorgie Road? That was Heat again; McCauley executing Roger van Zant for trying to kill him and his crew when all they wanted to do was sell him back his bearer bonds to everyone’s profit. And, of course, this very midweek, we avenged the most embarrassing European result in the history of our fellow Glasgow giants. We didn’t just beat Lincoln Red Imps for the sake of making it through to next week’s qualifier versus Willem II. No. We did it for the collective pride of the SPFL, we did it for the reputation of Scottish football and – most of all – we did it to provide some peace and comfort to our separated brethren across our beloved city. And, of course, we did it by five clear goals (although the fifth goal was pretty unclear and the fourth was a complete mystery – I watched it on Premier Sports). By the end of Taxi Driver, the world thinks Travis Bickle’s an avenging angel but, really, he just hated everyone in his immediate vicinity and wanted to shoot stuff up. I doubt this will be the season we beat Celtic by five clear goals in a game. We’ll do that as a celebration of our newly redoubled confidence after we’re league champions. They – the only side I have ever seen score five at Ibrox or see, on live telly as it was, beat us by five in a domestic game - will be getting theirs soon enough. However, in fairness, that 2016 Scottish Cup semi makes us the last side to have beaten Celtic in any domestic competition; last season’s Europa League makes us the last Scottish side to have gone past them in any competition and, since we’ve arrived back in the top flight, Rangers stopped their 22-game winning run of 2016-17 - becoming the first Scottish side to take league points from them at Parkhead that season - and last December became the first Scottish side in over five years to beat them in a meaningful league home game. And, tell me now, how does it feel? Now that the Arabs of Tannadice have been given that first-person pasting we craved so bad for so long, do you feel like the Highlander at The Quickening? Do you feel like Michael watching Al Neri shoot Fredo in the middle of his Hail Mary? Do you feel avenged? Do you feel sated? Do you feel like a big man? Well, do ya? No, me neither. It was nice. It’s always nice to skelp someone who’s annoying you. But there’s nothing like getting what you want to remind you what you actually need. Re-reading my little list, above, of our recent “achievements” against Celtic, it’s actually a list of Celtic achievements. There’s a difference between occasionally annoying someone specific and utterly dominating everyone. I didn’t crack open the champers on Saturday night or sit in front of Pointless Celebrities feeling smugly vindicated. All it takes is one good pasting of one of these rivals we’ve boycotted or cursed or swore revenge upon since 2012 to make you realise they’re as worthy of our ire as gonky big Richard Osman’s snidey barbs are deserving of a retort from urbane co-host Alexander Armstrong, and about as capable of overhauling us long-term on the football pitch as any member of Bucks Fizz is capable of naming the most obscure elements of the periodic table not ending in “-ium”. I want every opponent crushed and I need to see some crushed more than others. But, really, it’s all emotional displacement. Slaughtering the biggest opponents Scotland has to offer outside Glasgow is just a corollary of Rangers being back on top – of Rangers being back where we belong. It’s not revenge on isolated clubs we crave – it’s revenge on the Banter Years. And you get that via Glory Years. Live Podcast this Sunday This Sunday at 9.30pm we'll have another Gersnet Podcast live on Youtube. Don't miss it and remember you can take part via the chat facility! VISIT OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL On Sunday we visit a club whose fans are busily trying to overtake Aberdeen’s in hating Rangers as a badge of honour and, historically, have given us the occasional bloody nose. The ill-will’s underpinned by their name versus our demographic. That they’re Scotland’s fifth-biggest club and, “alongside” Rangers, one of only five to have been Scottish champions more than twice, makes it inevitable we’ll have a tense relationship, that they’ll have their moments against us. Revenge? Vengeance? It’s rarely more than a dramatic device. We have to remember Neil McCauley made an arse of killing Waingro earlier in Heat and it’s his inability to let it go which leads to his own death, pretty much outside Waingro’s hotel, just as he should have been sailing off into the sunset with the love of his life. The laws of drama right now say either blunt-edged Rangers are about to give someone Scottish a terrible doing or the first goal especially parsimonious Rangers concede this season will be an opposition winner rather than a mere consolation. Both those screenplays are realistic at Easter Road. It largely depends on the actors. Roofe and Tavernier went off in Gibraltar to add to the three we haven’t seen again from last Saturday. Precautionary or not, our understudies are good but, as always, motivation is key. We only played Hibs three times last season but we won in every possible pain-inflicting way; a late comeback win midweek at Ibrox; a Christmas three-going-on-ten-nil exhibition at Easter Road: But the 6-1 home win last August was the first proper payback for the Hampden atrocities of May 2016. Six-one. Five clear goals. Godfather II again: Don Fanucci, who threatened his business, in the face and chest as Vito’s home-made silencer ignites more brightly than the flickering hallway bulb outside his apartment door. We’ve done Hibs revenge. Beating them in cup finals or relegating them cannot adequately pain a support so used to both. Invading the pitch to attack their players would only make us animals. No. They’ve been dealt with on the Revenge front. Now it’s just about finishing off any pretensions they had to the title. Let’s do that the way Jake LaMotta does to Tony Janiro in Raging Bull: It’s not revenge. We just want to make sure no-one can ever again say they’re looking good. We merely want to beat them to a bloody pulp. Possible team (4-2-3-1):
  11. Unavailable: Balogun, Jack, Barker Possibles: McGregor, Defoe Remember game kicks off at 4pm this afternoon and is PPV (including UK) on RTV...
  12. Introduction Well, the much dreaded international break didn't disappoint. It was every bit as tediously boring and excruciatingly long as feared. Tragically, some would eventually succumb to madness as everyone from Paddy Roberts to Alan Power were "linked" with sensational switches to Ibrox as the prospect of even a crumb of a genuine rumour became less and less likely before the end of the break. Fortunately, there was a welcome relief from the deafening silence around Ibrox in the scintillating football played by Steve Clarke's dynamos as Israel were bravely thwarted at Hampden and Czechia's C team were effortlessly brushed aside in Olomouc. But for now, the only thing that matters is that our players came back injury-free. The visit of Dundee United to Ibrox is the first in eight and half years and promises to be an entertaining occasion. On the way back from demotion, a United side very strong at the time put Rangers to the sword twice in the cups and there will be just a little bit of a sense of revenge in mind on this occasion as the balance of power has reverted to the norm. On to this season, both sides will be happy with the start they have made. Rangers have gone six games without conceding and top the league. In early August, spirits were high as the red carpet was rolled out for long term target Kemar Roofe and Swiss striker Cedric Itten. Unfortunately, the green carpet of the Toni Maccaroni put a premature end to their honeymoon period as Rangers toiled to a no-score draw and the usual debates began to rage among the support (Jack and Kamara anyone?). Dundee United may sit in eighth place but they have given their support reason for optimism in the season ahead. The Opposition Tough opening fixtures have perhaps masked the fact that Dundee United have made a comfortable return to the top flight. They have picked up wins at Fir Park and Dingwall and have been very unlucky not to take all three points from hosting St Johnstone and not to take any from the visit of Hibs. The young side took plaudits for holding off Celtic for 83 minutes before cruelly losing the game to a jammy Ajeti strike. But while they have held their own against several top half sides and showcased some good football, their soft underbelly was exposed in a 4-0 humbling at the hands of an experienced, physical and clinical Kilmarnock side. What has not yet been tested is how they can cope with the particular pressures of an away tie in Glasgow. Unlike many Premiership sides, they do not have experience of playing with their backs to the wall and it doesn't seem they have recruited the players to play that kind of system. They normally line up in a 4-1-4-1 with two attack-minded centre midfielders in front of a holding midfielder, but the signing of six foot five centre back Ryan Edwards has given them the option of switching to a 3-5-2 which might give them more of a chance of holding out at Ibrox. Dangermen Despite currently looking like a bottom half side, the Arabs have not one but two strikers who have made a name for themselves as prolific goalscorers. Lawrence Shankland has scored an incredible 89 goals in 106 games and often only needs one chance to score. Nicky Clark has never quite rediscovered the form that saw him score 41 goals in the 12/13 season, but showed his worth last season when he scored or assisted a goal in all but one of the last 12 games of the season and has carried that form into this season. On the creative side, Manchester City youngster Luke Bolton is on loan for the season and possesses devastating pace on the right wing. In a game where the Tangerines' strategy will be all about the counter attack, any chances created are likely to come from the ball being played into space behind Barisic for Bolton to run onto before trying to find Clark or Shankland with a hard and low cross. Rangers Rangers will be looking to pick up where they left off after bouncing back from the disappointment at Livingston to pick up two 2-0 wins. The loss of Aribo to injury for another month is a big blow, and all but confirms that the team will remain unchanged in the middle of the park for the time being. McGregor's injury confirms that Jon McLaughlin will keep his place in goals too. The experienced keeper perhaps hasn't had the praise he deserves for his role in our new clean sheet record and former Hearts boss Craig Levein was keen to point out that Jon McLaughlin broke a 100 year clean sheet record in his time at Hearts too. Further up the park, the returns of Defoe and Itten are a big boost to Gerrard in terms of the options available to him but the two big talking points are likely to be whether Morelos will return and whether Barker will retain his place. Morelos has been training well and, according to Gerrard, is looking sharper. Both questions may be answered in one change with Kemar Roofe dropping into Barker's position behind Morelos, but I think it is more likely that Gerrard will go with the same team. Whatever the line-up, it is of course essential that Rangers pick up three points, but fans will be hoping to see the forwards being far more clinical in front of goal too and taking the opportunity to send a message to Celtic that this season we aren't going to give up the top spot so easily. Verdict Dundee United possess much more danger on the counter attack than St Mirren, St Johnstone and Kilmarnock, but their dismantling at Rugby Park has rung some alarm bells among the Arab support and their first visit to Ibrox after promotion is likely to be one they will want to forget. Rangers 3-0 Dundee United Predicted Line-up
  13. Pleased to say the inimitable @Fat Eck is back on match preview duties this week. Enjoy! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ I thought Saturday’s result, entirely jammy in how it came about, merely papered over the cracks of what has been a frankly disgraceful start to the season. The sight of Walter Smith by the side of the pitch only brought home how shamefully un-Rangers it all was. I mean I only got logged on in time for the coverage beginning at 2.30pm because I thought it started at 2. My half hour of trying to find and then work an access code the club e-mailed me in July - which I’ve used twice already - typified the embarrassing form I’ve displayed in trying to operate RangersTV on my laptop since the start of 2020-21. What did I really expect though, after a shocking pre-season in which I resorted to watching our Motherwell and Coventry friendlies on an Irish Sports channel rather than get some solid preparation under my belt. But, while I continue to think “casting to your TV” is a catchphrase from that Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse fishing programme, Rangers have enjoyed a record-breaking, record-equalling, solid as the Welsh-quarried redbrick on a listed main stand frontage, start to the new SPFL Premiership season. And what we did at Ibrox against Killie last weekend made me even happier than the fact this Saturday’s trip to Hamilton is live on Sky (even I can work a remote). Yes, another clean sheets milestone was lovely. Proving we can mix it up tactically, dominate and win with neither Alfredo Morelos nor Joe Aribo in the squad is further encouragement. But, for me, it’s all about the grind. It has become an obsession for more bears than just me, but the only recurring fault I can find with Steven Gerrard’s Rangers is our occasional inability to grind out a result against low-blocking elevens representing low-achieving clubs. On Saturday we ground out a result. And we ground it out against a team who, in the league, have always ground down Stevie G’s Gers. On each of the three previous occasions Kilmarnock have visited Gerrard’s Rangers we’ve managed just one goal; All scored by Alfredo Morelos who, you may have deduced from Michael Stewart’s manic delivery and discernibly higher register on Sportscene, was absent from Saturday’s squad. Yes, Gerrard’s stuffed them home and away in the Cups, but this was just our buoyantly coiffured gaffer’s second home league win over Kilmarnock. And this time we scored twice without reply, and this time Killie never threatened; And this time we didn’t need our Colombian talisman to dig us out of a hole. And it’s the digging ourselves out which pleased me most. Now that the match is won, I’m actually glad we went in 0-0 at half-time. Now that the three points are secure and we top the table, I’m delighted I was so bored and frustrated at the break. I’ve seen all the Ibrox romps I need to see to tell me Gerrard has the ability to win stuff. Coasting’s nice but we’ve done that. Now I want to see us overcoming those little road blocks of frustration and boredom – the kind Kilmarnock have placed across our path better than anyone else this last three years – which evidence the mental fortitude required to fulfil potential. Six days earlier the same blank score-line reigned at full-time in Livingston. It was Monday before I’d recovered my composure. But this last eight years I’m always too high or too low in the 24 hours after a Rangers triumph or setback. Regarding a draw, at a ground where no-one scores goals, as a disaster rather than an acceptable blip, is purely about my inordinate desperation for 55. In fact, to continue Clive Tyldesley’s lovely contextualising of this season’s ambitions during Saturday’s commentary, it’s not even “55” as such. That just happens to be the number of our next title. Like you, I just need to see Rangers back on top domestically to know we have finally and fully recovered from 2012. I need that for my soul and it makes me impatient. But that’s a mania, a psychological legacy of liquidation. By Post-Match Hour 25 I can usually see that, yet again, we’re making season-on-season progress. That’s the only guaranteed way to our next major trophy. Three straight poor halves of football, as the manager himself called them, may seem the weirdest way yet to confirm progress but I Tweeted at half-time on Saturday that the bore-fest we’d just watched, following hard on the heels of the Livi damp squib, presented a massive opportunity. All Gerrard’s squad have left to demonstrate is that they can shift mental gears, dig deeper and even mix metaphors when required - that they can, ye know, grind. At this point in the league last season we went on a sizzling three game streak, winning 4-0 in Perth before beating both Aberdeen and Hamilton 5-0 at Ibrox. There has never been any doubt that when Gerrard’s Rangers are in the right mood – particularly when we get a confidence-boosting early goal – we can decimate and dismantle all bar one in the SPFL. We do turn on the style. We really can entertain. But while these performances are also essential - while the players absolutely need the psychological respite afforded by the occasional goal deluge – the campaigns that produce league titles are marked by spreading the goals more evenly across the season. There is no law against winning each of 38 straight games by five clear goals. But there is little evidence of it happening in any title-winning campaign. And if the sight, around 5pm last Saturday, of Steven Gerrard on the same Rangers TV podium as Walter Smith doesn’t remind you of this then nothing will. Sir Walter has been called a few things. Master of the Grind never has and, really, never should be one of them. But the man who took us closest to winning the two European trophies not already silhouetted in red above the Rangers Store, did so in epic, nerve-sapping, marathon seasons which also went all the way on every domestic front. At Rangers it has never been about how comprehensively you win – it’s about how often. This demands an almost forensic weighing, division and distribution of, if not goals, then game-winning moments. With Super Ally’s “help”, Walter may have required a replay to beat Partick Thistle in the Scottish Cup and extra-time and penalties to beat St Johnstone in the semi-final. But he only needed nine men to beat St Mirren in a League Cup final. Gerrard is cut from the same cloth – win everything. But he inherited a squad which wasn’t. His European runs prove he can take us places. His domestic implosions prove his players need upgrading. Or, to hammer home the wider point about spreading the good stuff more evenly, his player pool needs a better balance of talent. It’s an age thing, I suppose. I was delighted to see Itten and Roofe doing reasonably well on their first starts – and was seriously encouraged by Brandon Barker seizing on his opportunity to impress beside, across and behind them. But while I enjoy analysing why or how we won, I know I’m no Michael Beale. My favoured arbiter of progress is results. All I really know is we did better hosting Kilmarnock in the league with two half-fit strikers, an unfancied midfielder and a slow first half, than we ever did with an Alfredo Morelos firing on all cylinders. If Gerrard knows what he’ll get from a player he can better deploy him. If we’re less dependent on whether or not our star man will turn up, the team is less likely to be held hostage by any one collective mood – we won’t stop if it isn’t going our way and we won’t think we’re world-beaters when it is. If we stop playing at 3-0 up against St Mirren and St Johnstone it’s probably because we’re learning we’ll need something in reserve for that Ibrox afternoon Aberdeen might take a point or that mid-week when Hamilton once took all three. Because Stevie G is a quick study. Hamilton is where he won his first league away game as Rangers manager. It was October. In a season which began with us conceding injury time equalisers at Pittodrie and Fir Park, Accies levelled with ten minutes remaining. But this time we won 4-1. So I’ll tune in on Saturday tea-time, hoping for an easy away romp on the plastic but knowing that, should we struggle to a one-goal win, it’s just more sand in the oyster grinding out that pearl – more gristle in the meat, grinding our teeth into shape … Yeah. I promise not to use the word grind ever again. As long as you promise to help me find Sky Sports on my telly… or is it BT? Maybe Setanta? I don’t know. Just gonnae show me where I key in my season ticket number… Possible starting XI (4-2-3-1):
  14. In the weird and, not so wonderful, pandemic affected world we currently live in, it's not really a surprise that the start of the new Scottish Premiership season has been an equally strange one. With Aberdeen and Celtic players falling foul of restrictions placed upon them (eight at the Dons and two at Celtic), and subsequent postponements of their games, the league table already has a somewhat unfamiliar look after just three games (well three for those able to actually fulfil their fixtures). The good news for Rangers fans is that we top the table, and with good reason, after three solid (if unspectacular) wins in our first three games including seven goals for and zero conceded. That means that Hibs who also have a 100% record have to be content with second place. Meanwhile, six teams in the bottom half of the table haven't had good starts, including our opponents this Sunday, Livingston who have taken just one point from their opening three games whilst looking uncharacteristically vulnerable at the back, even at home where Hibs hammered them 4-1 last Saturday. On paper then, this represents another good opportunity for Steven Gerrard's men to extend our winning run and apply more pressure to Celtic who won't be playing again this weekend. Of course it won't be a case of simply turning up to secure the points. The Tony Macaroni Arena with it's dreadful artificial surface has rarely been a stadium we look comfortable in. Yes, we beat Livi in all four games we played against them last season but we didn't open the scoring until the second half in each of our home league matches whilst both games we played in West Lothian (one in the league, one in the cup) were tense and tight affairs. We can expect more of the same on Sunday. Team-wise I don't see many changes from Gerrard's preferred XI so far this season. Allan McGregor continues to have an apparently generic niggle so will likely not be risked on a plastic pitch for now and, after coming off with a knock against St Johnstone on Wednesday, Leon Balogun is awaiting scan results on a quad muscle problem that will keep him out for the short term. In saying that Filip Helander didn't look overly comfortable on the plastic last season and is also coming back after a long spell injured so the left side of central defence is uncertain at the time of writing. The manager would do well to consider this fully given Lyndon Dykes (oft linked with our club over the last year) usually plays well against us and will have an extra point to prove after being overlooked in the transfer market it seems. Livi's new signing Alan Forrest (younger brother of James) has also scored against us twice in the past so we will need to be attentive at the back against any counter. The rest of the team should pick itself. Many fans remain unconvinced with our balance in midfield via the continued selection of both Glen Kamara and Ryan Jack who some see as too similar. However, playing both does allow the manager to be more flexible with his attacking choices with the deeper midfielders able to pivot to allow our full backs to provide a high width. Moreover, Joe Aribo can play deeper if required in a more orthodox midfield three or form part of an attacking three behind the striker. Indeed, Aribo has arguably been our more consistent player this summer, not just contributing outstanding skill but creating chances and scoring himself. Our other attacking midfield options are rather impressive with Ryan Kent and Ianis Hagi showing glimpses of what they can do in most games whilst Kent has also scored two important goals already this season. And, with Barker, Jones and Murphy in reserve, we should be able to unlock most domestic teams. It goes without saying that scoring goals will be vital if we're to be successful this season. Our defence again looks pretty strong this year after matching Celtic's goals against column in 2019/20. However, our main issue was turning our dominance in possession and territory into goals. With that in mind, it wasn't a surprise to see us bulk up in attack - both with respect to squad depth and in the literal physical sense. The additions of Kemar Roofe and Cedric Itten bring strength, hard-work and an aerial dimension which we've not always had in recent years. No-one can deny the continued importance of Morelos (who, it seems, will remain first choice as long as he remains focused as our player) but having other strikers ready and able to share the scoring burden - not forgetting Jermain Defoe either - is a necessity over what is hopefully going to be a long, busy campaign. In conclusion, it can be argued that last season wasn't a complete write-off for our club. Yes, we didn't win any trophies but a dominant cup final appearance and our impressive efforts in Europe and Parkhead showed we are capable. However, the fact remains there was nothing tangible for our efforts and our downturn in form after the winter break and our inability to put stuffy sides to the sword were of a concern as we entered 2020/21. Thus far at least we've demonstrated we can break down defensive blocks in our three wins through early August and this challenge will continue in Livingston on Sunday, with an added physical element from the likes of Dykes, Bartley and Ambrose. Such a test is nothing new though so the manager and players need to take another opportunity to show our early league position is something we intend to keep right through to next May. Dropping points on Sunday may not end any title challenge but taking all three with goals to spare will demonstrate we believe we can be successful and continue to reaffirm the kind of winning mentality and habit expected at Rangers. Not to mention apply just a bit more pressure to those teams behind us who are not playing and have also already dropped points. Let's take the early initiative and really push on... Possible team (4-2-3-1):
  15. @JFK-1 previews the first home match of the new season! The first home game of the season and the first competitive game at Ibrox since covid-19 changed the face of football brings St Mirren to the home of Rangers. League wise the Buddies come off the back of a good start after their 1-0 home victory against Livingston while Rangers also recorded a 1-0 win away to the plague infested sheep of the North. Regardless of the Rangers starting 11 both sides are going to be facing a sharp contrast in terms of the class of opposition in comparison to their most recent games. With all due respect to St Mirren they're no Leverkusen and St Mirren for their part will be well aware that Rangers are no Livi and not in a comforting sense. For this reason I would be more than surprised if St Mirren set up with anything other than a highly defensive formation we are all well accustomed to seeing visiting teams employ at Ibrox. This game introduces some unknowns into the equation for Rangers in the shape of two new strikers and debate around which or either of them may play whether be it a start or a substitution appearance. While defensively It's been many a year since I felt so confident in the Rangers defence and especially so in terms of the wealth of CB's we now have at the club. Such an over abundance of riches even with Nikola Katic out injured potentially for up to 6 months I have no great worries about whatever CB pairing Steven Gerrard may opt for. Connor Goldson is a stick on with a number of reliable alternatives available to play alongside him. I'm expecting to see Goldson and possibly Balogun after a sterling debut performance last week with Tavernier and Barisic either side of them. Beyond the defence there are also top quality options in the shape of Aribo, Kent, and Hagi etc but in the middle of the formation there are also a variety of alternatives which make it something of a guessing game regarding the starting line up. Then when looking at striker options there's the question of will one of our new strikers play? Will Morelos start? If one of the newbies take a spot either from the start or a substitute I expect it be Itten since I have doubts about the availability of Roofe fitness wise. If we go with the usual one striker a part of me wants it to be Alfie since there's always the chance this may be the last time we see him in a Rangers jersey and it would be a fitting farewell if he could play and bag one or two. On the other hand Alfie hasn't been quite himself of late turning in relatively lacklustre performances and showing little in the way of a threat. None of us are going to forget the contribution of Alfie during his time at Rangers. He was key in our Euro qualification run and our qualification for the knockout stages and a lot more besides. All of us will wish him well in the next stage of his career. But if he's likely to be leaving in the next week or do might it not be best to try to fit in say Itten for a start to get him bedded in as quickly as possible before tougher ties than St Mirren at Ibrox appear on the horizon? Obviously the manager will decide what's best for the team on the day. On paper no matter who plays this should be a comfortable standard home win for Rangers with at least a couple of goals in the St Mirren net by the end of it. While i'm often reluctant to be too over confident my expectation is that this will indeed be the case and i'm feeling at least 3 goals may be on the cards for Rangers with hopefully 0 in reply. We all know how absolutely vital every point is this season and maybe especially so home points. Despite it being early there is no wiggle room given that there's always the possibility we may again face a curtailed league. This is just another of many must win games to come. Go Rangers, 3-0 and hopefully 5 or even more to match the yahoo tally of last week. We need to get that GD difference down. Possible team (4-3-3)
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