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  1. It is back to league business after the positive, yet frustrating result in Rotterdam midweek, as Rangers welcome Hearts to Ibrox on Sunday 1st December, kicking off a crucial month of football. Most would have taken the draw before the game, but because of Porto's win in Bern and the way the game against Feyenoord panned out, we could have came away with three points. "Of course--We would've liked to have got the job done [Thursday night], but we can't control what happens elsewhere, " Gerrard said after the game. It's a tough group. It is still in our hands. We move on. Anyway--It is the start of the gruelling winter schedule, where we have eight tough games lined up in the run-up to Christmas. Success is all about grinding out results in December, and keeping any dropped points to an absolute minimum - last season we dropped 9 points in these fixtures. On paper this game looks like the easiest fixture of the lot, but Hearts will bring along some old and new threats. It's imperative we get this month off to a good start. Recent results have been good, but performances have been patchy. Gerrard said "we saw two sides of us over the course of the game [on Thursday]", which sums-up our recent record. We started the game passively on Thursday night, and the performance against Hamilton seemed to fall off a cliff edge after an hour. Despite this, we have been able to grind out good results, staying unbeaten since early October. We'll need that grit even more so in the games to come. It is fair to Hearts' form has been inconsistent since we played them last. They had been on a poor run of form before our last meeting, resulting in the sacking of manager Craig Levein. We dispatched them quite easily in the end in Austin MacPhee's first game as interim manager in the League Cup Semi-final. Since then they hit an impressive five goals against a stubborn St Mirren side, before following it up with a 3-0 away thumping at the hands of a resurgent Kilmarnock (all 3 goals coming in the space of 8 minutes). The defeat to Killie was labelled as "embarrassing", which saw only one player (Jamie Walker, rated 6) score above 5 out 10. Whether Austin MacPhee -- also Assistant Coach of the Northern Ireland National team -- is in with a shout at making his position a permanent one at the end of the season or not, his chances have certainly taken a hit after the defeat to Kilmarnock. MacPhee has been seen as a promising young coach over the last decade. He was credited with bringing a tactical nuance to a St Mirren side that defeated Celtic in 2011. He even caught the eye of the Mexico National Team, who appointed him as an opposition analyst for the 2014 World Cup. Mexico had impressed, but narrowly missed out on a Quarter-final place after a last gasp defeat to Netherlands. Rangers must be wary of a man that has a good tactical eye, even if his tools are lacking; a game against Rangers will prove too good an opportunity to recover his damaged reputation. The Last meeting between the sides was, on the face of it, a straightforward 0-3 win at Hampden. However, it did take Rangers until added time at the end of the first half to score, when Helander popped up to beat the offside trap and stab the ball into the net. It had been a stifling game, in wet conditions. We had struggled to create any decent chances. A couple of quick sucker-punch goals at the end of the first half and then early in the second snuffed out any chance that Hearts may have had. The meeting prior to that game was against Levein, which was another stifling affair, from which we only came away with a point. They are a wounded side, with a man in charge looking to impress. MacPhee is a tactically progressive coach and the formations Hearts have used in recent matches reflect that. They restricted Rangers with a 4-2-3-1, but then followed it up with a 3-4-3 in the 5-2 win against St Mirren; and their last match featured a 4-1-3-2 formation. It may be evidence of a team unable to settle, or simply a coach trying to set up his team to best take advantage of the opposition. Gerrard said, "they've certainly got players that, on the day, are capable of hurting teams: Naismith, [...] Ikpeazu, Jamie walker is back in the picture, Mulraney -- they have got exciting players, that, if we're not at it, they can cause us problems". Invariably, the man-mountain Ikpeazu leads the line, with Naismith and Walker occupying spaces in-behind -- all three have caused us issues in the past. It's likely that they will try to soak up the pressure and hit us on the counter. They also have an ability to press well, so our Centre-backs will need to keep the passes crisp and sharp. The right-sided Mulraney has a lot of pace, which they've used to good effect coming off the bench in recent games. Hearts have no new injury concerns -- Souttar remains out long-term. Halkett was listed amongst the substitutes last week after completing his rehabilitation from injury, so the former Rangers man could feature. The experienced Glenn Whelan returned last week too. Christophe Berra is one booking away from suspension, but it's doubtful he'll curb his more aggressive tendencies. Morelos usually gets rested after his European exploits--a regular occurrence--with Defoe replacing him in the following domestic game, but Defoe did not travel to Rotterdam at all, so it is unclear whether he will be able to make an appearance. The only other 'forward' we have is Greg Stewart. Barasic needed a late fitness test midweek, but came through the game unscathed. Jones may make an appearance on the bench as he recovers from a long-term injury. The majority of the Rangers team picks itself. McGregor, Tavernier, Helander, Goldson and Barasic have formed a strong foundation over the last few weeks, notching up 4 clean-sheets, so it is unlikely any changes will be made there. In midfield, Ryan Jack is too important to leave out, but Davis and Kamara can be rotated out to bring in specific options for the game. Ryan Kent is almost a certainty to start, as he gets closer and closer to getting back to his best after injury. The changes will come up front and perhaps one in midfield. Although Defoe has not scored in a while, he may get the nod if fit -- Morelos needs to be rested to keep him in good shape for the month ahead. In midfield, it may be a game for the more creative option of Aribo, in place of Davis or Kamara, to open up this Hearts team. If Hearts hold us at bay, then the guile of Stewart could be a good option coming off the bench. This is the start of a tough month of football; A good start is imperative. On paper, this game looks to be the easiest fixture of the lot, but we cannot underestimate this Hearts team. Austin MacPhee is a tactically progressive coach, who can set up his side to stifle us and cause problems. If we can blast through their game-plan early, taking our chances like Kilmarnock did, then it could be a comfortable afternoon. Otherwise, we're in for a tough test. It is important to deal with the physical threat of Ikpeazu and keep a keen eye on the deeper runs from Naismith and Walker.
  2. Hamilton v Rangers Match preview. Yes! Yes! Yes! The international breaks are being put in cold storage until March. From now until March it is wall to wall club football. Well except for that stupid idiot idea of having a winter stop, It just means taking 3 weeks off and then having to play a backlog of games in a crushed schedule later date.We are now entering into the meaty section of the competition. This is the time when we get down to the nitty gritty where league's are lost or won. Points thrown away at this stage could be lethal. The last time we came away from the international break we threw the top place in the league away with a poor performance against Hearts. Yes we were bullied but as the boss Stevie Gerrard would say “we have to find a way round whatever the opposition throws at us.” Steven Gerrard and Filip Helander intimated that none of the Internationalists were carrying any injuries and he has a full squad of players to pick from. Jordon Jones has returned to training but Sunday will be too early for him and Steven said that he would expect him to be ready for selection in about ten days time. We travel through to Hamilton to the Hope CBD Stadium, the home of Hamilton Academicals. The last time we played Hamilton the gaffer played Jermaine Defoe up front and he kindly repaid him with a hat-trick. Goldson and Barisic notched the other two goals with Borna treating us to one of his signature free-kicks hitting the ball over the wall and into the top corner of the net. The team that day was: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Edmundson, Barisic, Davis (Murphy 64), Kamara, Arfield (Polster 64), Ojo (Morelos 73), Defoe, Stewart With Alfie only returning from a long Journey on Saturday and after taking part in two games, I actually think Gerrard will go for Defoe again. He may pick the exact same team again with possibly Scott Arefield, dropping out for Ryan Kent as Arfield also had a long Journey, returning from America where his national team, Canada, took a 4-1 hiding from the Americans. Steven Davis may also be rested as he played in two extremely difficult games against the Netherlands and Germany. Joe Aribo could be given that midfield Berth. Hamilton are currently in the tenth place in the league on equal points with Hearts. More worrying for them is that they are only one point in front of second bottom St Johnstone and three points in front of bottom placed St Mirren. While St Johnstone have a worse goal difference St Mirren have a better goal difference. With St Johnstone having a home game against Aberdeen and St Mirren at home to Ross county a defeat to Rangers could see them plunge to the bottom of the league if the other two results go against them. I would imagine that fact will make them keep the game as tight as possible. The referee for the day is Steven McLean 'with Dougie Potter, Drew Kirkland running the line and the Fourth Official is Gavin Ross. Unfortunately playing Hamilton in Hamilton means another run-out on one of those horrible plastic pitches. What a shame the SPFL didn't take the Dutch example and propose to kick them out. I take it that will rule out Jamie Murphy getting a place on the bench. After beating them 5-0 the last time we finished that day by climbing to the top of the League after a Celtic defeat at Livingstone so let's hope Rangers and Livingston can give us a repeat performance and we get back where we belong. You could say hoping at the Hope. I think the team will be. McGregor Tavernier Goldson Edmundson Barisic Jack Kamara Aribo Stewart Defoe Kent C'mon the Gers!!!!
  3. So with the excitement and I might add exhilaration of Rangers clash with Porto behind us and a 2-0 win under the belt it's back to the bread and butter. The 'hammer throwers' of Scottish football beckon. Rangers visit Livingston and their dreaded plastic for the second time this season the first of which was a 1-0 Rangers win in the league cup quarter final. Rangers took the lead after just 5 minutes in that game when a Kamara strike from around 20 yards was deflected into the goal off the knee of a Livingston defender for what turned out to be the only goal of the game. From there even though Rangers had 60% of the possession and 6 shots on target to 0 for Livi the most striking feature of the game was what I would euphemistically call the 'physicality' of Livingston. Both Ryan Jack plus Joe Aribo sustained head injuries and while Jack was ultimately able to carry on Aribo was more seriously injured by an elbow to the head which resulted in a wound requiring 20 stitches to close. A total of 6 yellow cards were flashed by the referee 4 of them for Livi one of those cards being directed at London Dykes for a late challenge on Connor Goldson. This actually appeared to continue a pattern of Dykes assaults on Goldson after Dykes had been red carded at Ibrox during a league match some weeks earlier in which Rangers ran out 3-1 winners. Goldson was left lying on the Ibrox pitch requiring treatment after Dykes delivered what we might begin calling the Livi special, an elbow to the head. I'm focusing on this aspect because that's exactly what I expect to see again in this game. I actually have real concerns for the health and safety of Rangers players against a side who have accumulated a total of 22 yellow cards and 2 reds across 18 games this season. It's the third worst record in the league behind first placed Motherwell and second placed Hearts. And take note that a full third of these Livingston cards, 8 to be precise encompassing 7 yellows and 1 red came in just two games against Rangers. A shocking disciplinary record against Rangers in just two games resulting in 3 head injuries one of them serious. We know we're far and away the better team and they know it too. We only need to be allowed to play football to win this game and obviously it's going to be up to the referee to allow that to happen. If the referee does his job I predict a comfortable 2 or 3 goal win if not it may be tighter with us still being dominant but unable to actually impose our class in a game likely littered with stoppages for constant fouling and time wasting. Let's hope to get through this with another vital 3 away points and no cracked skulls.
  4. Our record against Portuguese clubs is better than you might think. It contrasts sharply to our record against their Iberian neighbours, the Spanish. I had a glance at the record yesterday and we won all of our first five Home games against Sporting '71, Porto '83, Boavista '86, Maritimo '04 and Porto '05. Since then, we have drawn the Ibrox encounter with Sporting both in '08 and 2011. Even better we got through in six out of those 7 ties, including the CL group of 2005. The only time they had success against us was back in 1983 when we were put out on Away goals. Ties have tended to be close. Three of the seven were settled on away goals and one on penalties. One of those away goal wins was the famous occasion en route to the ECWC success of 1972 when Willie Waddell had to show the referee the rule book. You could say that this is a historic record and it has nothing to do with tonight and although you'd be right to say that,...I've found these type of tendencies often do have relevance. When we got Danish opposition in the qualifying round this summer, a quick look at previous encounters showed three previous European ties against Danish teams and that we'd never been beaten (5 wins and 1 draw), Lyngby '92, Herfolge 2000 & Copenhagan in '03. What happened against Midtjylland (league leaders in a country with a higher co-efficient than Scotland) ? As you all know we won both home and away scoring 7 goals over the tie .....But against lowly Progres, how many away goals did we score ?...Same as two years ago, zero. We find it very difficult to beat Spanish teams but always (4 games) draw against Villareal....bla bla Rangers results in Europe https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rangers_F.C._in_European_football
  5. John Greig began his fifth season as manager of Rangers in August'83. Levels of optimism were low, Jim Bett had left and returned to Belgian side, Lokeren. However, Ally McCoist had finally joined Rangers at the third time of asking. Sunderland had taken a considerable hit in accepting a £185,000 fee. Ally would go on to finish the season as Rangers top scorer on 21 goals, John Greig's season ended on the 28th October. In two months, he had lead Rangers to wining a Glasgow Cup, a 1-0 against Celtic in front of 60,000 at Hampden, the League Cup semi-finals, and secured a club European record victory over Valletta(18-0) in the first round of the European Cup Winners Cup. The clouds had been gathering, our start to the league season had seen one point secured from four games. Amid the plethora of cup victories, another four league matches had seen three wins and importantly a home loss to Aberdeen. Post match posses collected in front of the Main Stand. The week ahead saw Porto visit Ibrox for the second round ECWC first leg, Saturday would see Motherwell provide opposition for our ninth league fixture at the Stadium. Thirty-six thousand witnessed the Portuguese spirited defence. We started well, had a good first half and Sandy Clark notched several minuted before half-time. The second half was a grind, Porto were comfortable, and showed our attack down cul-de-sacs. A few long range efforts peppered the goal and we got lucky, a decent save was met on the rebound by our substitute the big Aussie, Dave Mitchell. We were two zip with five minutes to go. In the last minute, Peter McCloy made an appalling blunder, gifting Porto's Jacques a tap in. The concession of that goal proved extremely costly. Rangers team that evening was : McCloy, Dawson, McClelland, McPherson, Paterson, Redford, Prytz, McCoist, Clark, Russell, and Cooper. On the Saturday, the mighty Claret and Amber arrived, conceded a penalty scored by McCoist and then notched two second half goals themselves. The Posses reconvened in Edmiston Drive and Greig decided on a few days off to decide his future. We had seven points from a possible 18, and Hearts awaited midweek in the League Cup. Tommy McLean stood in and steered us to a 2-0 win. John Greig offered his resignation on the Friday and the Board accepted the inevitable. Calimero continued in the dug-out for the next day's visit to Love Street, there was no injustice, we were deservedly routed 3-0. Sunday saw Alex Ferguson visit Ibrox, the Board offered him the opportunity to manage his boyhood heroes, and he accepted. He returned to Aberdeen to inform Dick Donald who offered the same terms as Rangers and promised a place on the Board. Fergie called Rangers next day and informed the club of his reverse decision. The joke at the time was his mistress, Jane Franchi did not fancy a move to Glasgow. How far were Rangers to fall? The second leg of the ECWC tie was played at the Antas stadium on a rain soaked evening in front of 60,000. Tommy McLean put the team : McCloy, McKinnon, McClelland, Paterson, Dawson, McPherson Cooper, Russell, Prytz, Redford, and Clark to defend a most slender 2-1 lead, Again, a good first half, Cooper was deep on the right and was picking the passes. McCloy had made two wonderful saves from Porto's centre, Gomes. All square at half-time, but Porto kept coming in the second. Driven no doubt by the Club Chairman's incentive to pay a bonus of £1,600 to the scorer of the winning goal. Gomes claimed the only goal and the bounty. Most Bears thought the Big Gas Meter had a claim on that fee as we lost out on away goals. Interestingly, Porto went on to the final of the ECWC that year, losing narrowly 2-1 to Juventus. Further, they dispatched Aberdeen in the semi-final 2-0 on aggregate. In the mean time, Fergie had refused the Arsenal job, still awaiting that promised elevation to the Aberdeen Board. Jane Franchi did not like London either. Returning from Portugal, we faced Celtic at Ibrox and lost 1-2. Dundee United's manager was next offered the Ibrox hot seat and again, accepted. Walter Smith tells of donning a well worn Rangers scarf as Jim McLean told him he was accompanying him at the Stadium. Yep, Jim was sacking his younger brother, Tommy; then he spoke with long term Tannadice Director, George Fox, changed his mind and told Walter to remove his scarf. The turn of the year would see McLean turn down Newcastle United too. Tommy's misery continued for a further two weeks, before the Board settled on a third choice Jock Wallace. We would go on to win the League Cup against Celtic, McCoist scoring a hat-trick in a 3-2 victory. Wallace temporarily restored confidence and fitness levels, we went on a five month unbeaten run. He signed both Stuart Munro and Jimmy Nicholl, taking us to fourth in the league, finishing 15 points behind Champions, Aberdeen. It's been a recurring theme among older Bears, could an inspired Rangers have replicated Porto's journey to the final? We were definitely a cup team, added battle fever might have had us dreaming? Thursday night's Europa Cup tie has none of the surrounding drama and I suspect the Gaffer will go with : McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Kamara, Davis, Aribo, Arfield, Kent, and Morelos. It's the Estadio do Dragao where we drew 1-1 fourteen years past in the Champions League. Ross McCormack scored the equaliser and that precious point saw us qualify for the last sixteen. I fancy Porto have a couple of goals in them, notwithstanding any Chairman's incentive. Hopefully, Morelos and one other can reply to secure a 2-2 draw?
  6. As we secretly sit gorging ourselves on our children's Halloween sweeties (or is that just me?), it's safe to say Rangers' efforts this season have been soothing rather than scary. Just the two defeats by the start of November is decent going by anyone's expectations given we've already played 24 times, including 11 times in the Europa League. Domestically we're also ten points better off than this time last season so it's fair to say we travel the short distance to Hampden with a fair degree of merited confidence. Rangers Despite the decent record above, ironically our form remains fairly inconsistent and, as much as we've looked very good in some games, we've been just as poor in others. At home we look particularly comfortable but less so away and with a less than impressive record at the national stadium in recent years. Nevertheless, despite some disappointments this season, the team does look more focused and certainly appears to have more character than previously. Securing positive results against Motherwell, Killie and Porto amongst others shows the team do believe in themselves during adversity and such belief will be vital if we're to secure some much needed silverware. Our first opportunity to do this will be in the League Cup and, after going out at the semi-final stage last season against Aberdeen, the manager will be keen to reverse that result this year against Hearts. Yet, we need only look back a fortnight to see the Edinburgh side won't roll over despite their poor form in the Ladbrokes Premiership. In terms of the Rangers team, a very positive performance and result in Dingwall in midweek means Steven Gerrard will have the headache of having to pick an XI from a squad that are now making the manager's job very difficult given most are contributing to a high level. A few knocks aside to McGregor, Barisic, Barker and Kent, only Jordan Jones remains unavailable longer term and that large squad will be important as the schedule ramps up ahead of the winter break in January. Recent games has seen a first choice back four emerge with Filip Helander showing his pedigree alongside Connor Goldson. However, with Hearts physical presence up front key to how they play, Niko Katic may well resume his aerial battles with Uche Ikpeazu. The aforementioned Borna Barisic is now a clear first choice at left back and, although the captain has struggled this season at times, Tavernier will skipper the side as usual from right back on Sunday. The rest of the XI is harder to predict. Ryan Jack and Steven Davis will definitely start if fully fit and both have had excellent campaigns with the former badly missed against Hearts recently. Beside them will be one of Glen Kamara, Joe Aribo and Scott Arfield depending on how the manager wants to set his team up. Kamara will add guile and strength against a Hearts midfield that will work hard to press physically and force us into more direct play. Aribo, or a deeper Arfield, may be less effective if the Jambo's system is similar to what they used a week past Sunday but if we're to create chances and space then one may well be preferred. Further forward, there's little doubt the on-form Alfredo Morelos will be the focal point of our attack as usual, despite the fine contribution of Jermain Defoe who should be a better backup option that Omar Sadiq was in last year's semi. That leaves the two supporting roles with several players capable of filling the inside forward positions or indeed pulling wide if required as well. Fitness may well determine the contribution of Ryan Kent and Brandon Barker so the likes of Sheyi Ojo, Greg Stewart and Jamie Murphy will be eager to make the squad and prove they can help us win big games. Hearts Notwithstanding Hearts poor form this season, yesterday's sacking of Craig Levein still came as a surprise ahead of Sunday's big game. The Jambo supporters weren't keen on retaining his services though and it will be interesting to see if caretaker Austin MacPhee changes the way the Edinburgh side play in the coming weeks. It is unlikely he'll do so at the weekend though and I'd expect a similar line-up to their recent matches. Returns for Jamie Walker and Glenn Whelan seem likely and don't be surprised to see Steven Naismith make the bench as well. Meanwhile Christophe Berra and Michael Smith will be keen to replicate their solid partnership from the fixture two weeks ago. Hearts' goalscorer Ryotaro Meshino will join Jamie Walker in providing the maroon creative threat, looking to link with Ikpeazu where possible. Conclusion No matter (or even because of) the result at Tynecastle in October, Rangers should be approaching this game with renewed efforts to prove they can deliver success this season. Winning trophies isn't all about outstanding football but a wide-ranging approach of hard work, tactical nous and quality in key moments; virtues missing all too often as Rangers recover from the desperate times of 2012, and virtues certainly absent when Aberdeen knocked us out last October. Yet, it's safe to say Rangers this season are a different animal. We're physically stronger defensively, we create more chances, we score more goals and we're more flexible tactically with a bigger, better squad. Even so, several players from last years debacle remain so for at least half our team this weekend, this match should be all about proving themselves capable of winning big matches and offering a genuine challenge for silverware. Not progressing into December's final may not end our season or be the end of the world but it would be another key test failed so we have to hope the players and coaching team are well aware of what's at stake on Sunday. Possible Starting XI
  7. The County v the Rangers is on tonight at Victoria Park, now grandly named the Global Energy Stadium, Dingwall. I’ve been there a few times when Elgin City played – and usually pasted – them. No one in those distant days would have thought that Ross County would ever play in the same league as the mighty, world-famous Rangers but here we go and it’s not the first time. Nine matches have taken place, six in the league and three in cup ties. Rangers are unbeaten in these games but three have been draws, two of them at Ibrox and most of the results have been close. Another close win will do this evening to keep pace with the other contender for the championship but to emphasise title-winning credentials, to increase team confidence and to put fear into the hearts of the rest of the clubs in the league, a victory by more than a few goals would be most welcome. Have Rangers got a team to do that? Of course they have. Will this be it? Foderingham (McGregor apparently an injury doubt) Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barasic; Davis, Jack, Kamara; Ojo ( of course) Arfield Morelos. Kent and Barker are injured again. With them absent, Murphy would have been useful. It won’t happen but omitting Ojo or Arfield and playing Defoe up front with Morelos pulled back a bit might be interesting and I think Tav needs a rest so I’d try Polster. Arfield is also weary so I’d pick Stewart. Good luck for Rangers, isn’t it, that I don’t pick the side and Steve Gerrard does. County will field a big, competent side. They have had some pretty fair performances. They are close on the heels of Aberdeen, Scotland’s second club apparently, and well ahead of Hearts and Hibs. It will insult their followers dreadfully if I say they remind me of ICT a few seasons back, a team that doesn’t give up and gets results when not expected. The weather is cold but dry and not much wind. It’s on BT TV. The County badge is Cabar Feidh, the Stag’s Antlers. Take care, Rangers. Don’t get impaled on the horns of the deer.
  8. Scottish Premiership Sunday, 27th Oct 2019, 3:00pm Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow AFTER claiming an important Europa League Group G point against Porto last night, Steven Gerrard wants his side to rise to another big challenge on Sunday when Motherwell come to Ibrox. The Steelmen currently sit third in the Ladbrokes Premiership table and have yet to lose away from home in the league – having won three of their fixtures and drawn one on their travels. Gerrard expects a tough test against Stephen Robinson’s men and when asked if he could make several changes to his starting eleven on the back of the midweek trip to Portugal, the manager replied: “We’ll freshen it up but it won’t be wholesale changes. Read more here: https://rangers.co.uk/news/headlines/ill-not-make-wholesale-changes/
  9. International breaks are never the most popular time amongst Rangers fans. Since the difficulties of 2012, we've not exactly had huge numbers of players representing their countries and, even now, Ryan Jack seems to be the only Scottish player considered good enough to make what is a poor Scotland squad. Yep, fortnights of fun these are not. Fortunately, there has been a small, but noticeable, increase in interest of late though. Borna Barisic is first choice left back for Croatia whilst the fans of Colombia are becoming ever more excited about the work of Alfredo Morelos. Steven Davis is also breaking appearance records for Northern Ireland, Joe Aribo is scoring for Nigeria against Brazil and Glen Kamara is a key figure in the Finnish midfield. Scott Arfield will also have enjoyed skippering Canada's first win over USA in 35 years. Suffice to say our numbers are improving and that's a good way of measuring the development of our squad in recent times. However, it's back to club action for all this weekend, with the schedule again a busy one until the next break in mid-November. And, with Rangers top of the league after the events of two weeks back, we could have hardly have asked for a tougher restart than away to Hearts at Tynecastle. Hearts Now, to qualify that difficulty, the Jambos aren't in the greatest of form. Currently ninth in the table with just six points from a possible 24, the Edinburgh men have really struggled so far this campaign. They only have one league win to their name and have suffered from a number of injuries to key players. Naismith, Souttar, Halkett, Washington, Haring, Walker and more have all been missing at some point and, as much as Hearts performances remain poor and one-dimensional enough to disappoint their fans, if we had similar numbers of key players missing, we'd point to that as well for inconsistency. Interestingly though, Craig Levein's record in general against Rangers isn't a good one. In his time as Hearts manager, he's only managed to beat us once in 24 attempts (h/t @JFK-1) and, for whatever reason, has struggled badly when playing us. Twenty defeats and three draws complete that record and even with a few of the missing players above available again this weekend, it's difficult to see that run improving. Yet, if Levein is looking for extra motivation then he won't need to look any further than his own mirror. And, he does retain a few fine young players who'll be eager to extend their reputations in Gorgie on Sunday. Rangers Along the M8, the picture couldn't be any more different. Just the one domestic defeat and qualification for the Europa League group stage means things could scarcely have went better for Steven Gerrard so far this season. Although performances haven't always been of the quality seen in Ibrox routs over Hibs, Aberdeen and, most recently, Hamilton; Rangers have shown more mettle this season than last by also winning games where we haven't played well. Indeed, aside from a fine second half display in Perth, Rangers haven't looked anywhere near as comfortable away from home and only one goal margins have been achieved in Kilmarnock, Paisley and, in the cup, to Livingston. Even so, most bears will consider these a positive though as these were the types of games where crucial points were dropped in previous seasons. In terms of the personnel available to the 'Gers manager, the picture is again more agreeable than that of his Edinburgh counterpart. Marquee signing Ryan Kent is available again after a recent calf strain and Jon Flanagan is also back in full training after a recent hernia operation. Unfortunately, Ryan Jack will be out for a while longer after he went off injured in Bern earlier this month. With such a big squad, also comes a variety of selection and systems. Our quality at centre half is now obvious with four players all capable of delivering clean sheets in most games. Connor Goldson continues to be first choice and picking his partner seems to be dependent on the opposition rather than individual form at times. Although Uche Ikpeazu missed Hearts' last game, if he's fit on Sunday, then it will be particularly interesting to see who is deployed with Niko Katic and George Edmundson perhaps the best physical and aerial options Rangers have. Yet, for all criticism aimed at him, Felip Helander has yet to be in a Rangers team that concedes a domestic goal so don't be surprised to see the big Swede start either. Further forward in the team, the aforementioned international matches may have some effect on how we line up on Sunday. With Ryan Jack unlikely to feature, the rest of our usual deeper three players were all travelling across Europe and the rest of the world to star for their countries. It will also be interesting to see if Scott Arfield is used in the deeper role we've seen him do well at Ibrox in or if someone like Matt Polster or Greg Docherty is used as a more defensive foil in what is always a tricky venue with a physical opposition. With Ryan Kent fit again, that offers extra choice in the attacking three also and, on top of the good work done by Ojo, Stewart and Barker across this season, as well as options such as Jamie Murphy, Gerrard does have several creative players he can rely on as the colder months arrive. Fortunately, although Alfredo Morelos played two matches for Colombia across the break, both were in Europe so he should start ahead of the always dependable Jermain Defoe. Conclusion Steven Gerrard has been at pains to downplay the fact Rangers went top two weeks ago and he's right to do so. We're only in mid-October and it would be a surprise to see anything other than the lead changing hands several times as the season progresses. Gerrard will also be keen to impress on his players what happened the last time we led the league into a break last January. On that occasion we let a 1-0 lead slip away to Kilmarnock after the winter shutdown and the league was pretty much done from that point forward as our team mentally capitulated. However, this season at least, has seen a better Rangers: less prone to dropping points and mentally stronger when it comes to adversity. Sure, we're by no means the finished product and anyone thinking success this season is inevitable will soon feel differently as the Tynecastle crowd and Hearts players get right at us from the first whistle come Sunday lunchtime. In fact, the real work is just starting and Sunday will be just one more examination of a squad and manager that has yet to pass any silverware test (monthly SPFL awards aside). Nevertheless opportunity knocks more than ever for this improved Rangers team and I expect them to rise to the occasion again this weekend! Possible team (4-3-2-1)
  10. Excellent stuff from @Gizmo231 ahead of tomorrow's game. Please click the main site link to support our contributors! https://www.gersnet.co.uk/index.php/news-category/match-analysis/1051-pushing-on-in-paisley-st-mirren-v-rangers After a hard fought game in Warsaw, it's now back to league action for Rangers as they look to make it three wins on the spin in the Ladbrokes Premiership. The side are playing with style both domestically and in Europe, scoring goals and looking hard to break down at the back. But as we all know too well, our season was undone in 2018/19 thanks to below par results against the so-called poorer sides in the league. So with that in mind, let's take a look at where the game with St Mirren could be won and lost on Sunday. Background to Game Rangers are coming into the game on the back of a more than decent result in Europe and one they really could have taken a victory from. Steven Gerrard's men have also had a fair amount of games of late, four in less a fortnight, and come into it match sharp and ready to go with a pool of players big enough to rotate if needed. St Mirren's last outing was against Aberdeen a week past on Sunday, so they will be well-rested and hopefully slightly rusty ahead of the lunchtime kick-off. Head to Head History In 116 meetings over the years, Rangers have won 87 of them which shows the dominance we have over our colleagues in Paisley. In fact, over the past few years we have had plenty of meetings with the Buddies both in the Championship and then in the top flight. We welcomed a then-Alan Stubbs led St Mirren to Ibrox for the first home game of the season and swatted them aside in the first half before going a man down when Ross McCrorie was sent off. We have won five of our last six and drawn the other against St Mirren, scoring 15 goals in the process and that all makes for welcome reading before we travel to face Jim Goodwin's side on Sunday. The Opponent St Mirren had a topsy-turvy campaign last season by all accounts. The disastrous appointment of the aforementioned Stubbs almost cost them their place in the Premiership before it had even really started. Oran Kearney came in and, again, couldn't get the team playing - that was until nearer the end of the campaign when they finally found a bit of form and managed to avoid a dreaded relegation scenario. But it proved to be an utterly bizarre summer and it was almost a will he, won't he situation with Kearney as rumours circulated he would leave. After weeks and with the new season on the horizon, the Northern Irishman did head back to his homeland in what turned out to be a pretty bitter affair as he and chairman Gordon Scott resorted to mud-slinging in the media. Following that bombshell, though, Jim Goodwin took the reigns and has done a decent enough job so far. The former Alloa boss made a great impression at the Indodrill and looks set to continue that in Paisley - especially if they can build on some promising opening performances. Form The Buddies narrowly lost out to Hibs in the opening game of the league season following a disappointing run in the Betfred Cup where they were sent crashing out at the group stage. But they managed to rally following the early setbacks and produced a great performance to beat a sorry Aberdeen team in Paisley. That's why it's key Rangers must respect their opponents this Sunday - they have shown they are capable of providing a shock. Dangerman Kyle Magennis remains a hot prospect for St Mirren and is a shining light in their team. He has skill, pace and eye for goal and he's certainly one to look out for in this Saints side. Rangers As I have said a few times this season, we are a good team. If we turn up and play how we can, we should be beating every team in this league. But this is going to be a good test this weekend because, as mentioned previously in the article, it's the sort of game which, last season, we'd have potentially dropped silly points. As we saw against Kilmarnock, if we drop off in a game we can be punished - but what was also so great about that game was that we found a solution to it. We now have more skill middle to front in terms of breaking teams down in the final third with the likes of Joe Aribo and Sheyi Ojo hitting the ground running. We also have players like Scott Arfield and Jordan Jones who can feed Jermaine Defoe and Alfredo Morelos up top. We are in a good position, with a good squad of players and with a huge week on the horizon, it would be no surprise to see Steven Gerrard shuffle the pack. The likes of Greg Stewart and Jones are the players who should be appearing in these sorts of games this weekend. They are proven Premiership players and should be able to go to St Mirren and put on a show - but for Stewart I'm not convinced he yet has the full trust of the management team to be starting in tough away fixtures. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Andy King handed his first start in the game in a three man midfield with Glen Kamara and Joe Aribo. The likes of Steven Davis and Ryan Jack could perhaps do with a slight rest before next week's double header with Legia Warsaw and then Celtic. I think Gerrard will make changes for the game but the squad depth is such it should have a major impact on the team. Predicted line-up (4-3-3) Predicted score St Mirren 0-2 Rangers
  11. This is a HUGE match again today seeing as Celtic lost 2-0 at the Spaghettihad.
  12. After a 5-0 rout over Aberdeen last Saturday, coupled with a Europa League matchday one win over Feyenoord, confidence couldn't be much higher in the Rangers camp ahead of tonight's match against Young Boys in Bern. BSC Young Boys Tonight's opponents will be no walkover though. Like Feyenoord in the opening game, despite a few injuries, the Swiss side remain unbeaten domestically this season and only went out the Champions League qualifiers on goal difference to Red Star. They were defeated 2-1 by Porto in their opening Europa League game but came back from 0-1 down to win their league match 3-2 with Sion at the weekend. A recent 11-1 away win in the Swiss Cup - albeit over fifth tier club Freienbach - shows Young Boys certainly can score goals at home or away. Tactically, they may well play two up front, including their target man Jean-Pierre Nsame (who equalised against Porto) and look to use their wide men to provide the ammunition for their strikers. On a positive for Rangers, they don't look quite as strong defensively so their artificial pitch may work in the favour of Morelos should we need to use the channels ourselves. Rangers For their part, the Ibrox side will have enjoyed a few days rest since Saturday's stroll over Aberdeen and, one or two injury doubts aside, Steven Gerrard will have a strong squad to pick from this evening. The recall of Niko Katic to the starting XI at the weekend may suggest he'll again be Connor Goldson's partner tonight considering Filip Helander didn't look at all comfortable on Livingston's own artificial surface last midweek. The aerial threat of Nsame and Young Boys' preference for playing directly and from wide areas may also play to Katic's strengths in the air so any changes from Saturday's back five appear unlikely. James Tavernier and Borna Barisic will have big nights ahead as well though with the Swiss wide players, one of which may include former Celtic right back Saidy Janko. Moving into midfield and the attacking areas, changes from how we setup against Aberdeen are expected. Ryan Jack and Steven Davis will be amongst the deeper three players but Scott Arfield is likely to be returned to his more familiar forward role leaving Glen Kamara, Joe Aribo and Greg Docherty to fight it out to play on the left side of our usual deeper three. Given Aribo's recent head injury and Docherty's recent non-involvement then the Finnish international has to be favourite to start, despite some poor form this season. Interestingly centre-half George Edmundson did impress for 20mins in a holding role on Saturday and his height may tempt Steven Gerrard into doing the same tonight but that would represent the kind of risk the manager isn't renowned for in his short coaching career. The attacking three positions should be be fairly easy to predict. As touched on above, Arfield should be moved forward and will be keen to build on a fine display versus the Dons. Meanwhile, Sheyi Ojo hasn't quite persuaded every Rangers fan of all his qualities yet but it would be a surprise if he didn't start tonight given the threat he offers on the counter. For all his foibles, the attacker is fairly adept at finding space and using his pace to maintain possession further up the park. As usual, our focal point will be the fantastic Alfredo Morelos and the Colombian will surely use his usual brand of guile and strength to lead the line effectively for us tonight. His recall to the international setup is a deserved reward for his form this season. Conclusion Despite Young Boys' status as the group's second seeds, Rangers will rightly fancy their chances of a positive result in Bern this evening (remember it's a 5.55pm kick off!). However, we cannot allow understandable confidence to write off our opponents who will be equally keen to recover from defeat in Portugal to get themselves back into the group. As such Young Boys are unlikely to sit deep and whilst Rangers may well deploy different tactics to what we seen against Feyenoord, we'll also be eager to get forward and create chances ourselves. The last time we played Young Boys was 42 years ago and we managed to progress from a two-legged Cup Winners' Cup qualifier on the basis of a 1-0 home win at Ibrox and a 2-2 draw in Bern. Now, a group competition is rather different from knockout stages but I suspect most Rangers fans would settle for that this evening with a 1-0 home in December's return. However, I'd also imagine the kind of players involved in those 1977 matches, including John Greig, Derek Johnstone and Gordon Smith (all of whom scored across the tie) might demand a better outcome from their modern-day counterparts this year. Rangers didn't have a good European campaign at all that season and went out in the first round proper in their next match. However, we did go on to win a remarkable domestic treble after winning nothing the previous season. We've already done fairly well in European terms this season but a successful Scottish league offensive is arguably even more important. Even so, Europe and Scotland needn't be exclusive of each other and momentum can be an important factor in any success. Another positive result tonight will certainly be most welcome in that regard... Possible Starting XI (4-3-2-1)
  13. After a physically tough and nervy 90mins on Wednesday night, Rangers and their fans will be glad to be back to home territory this Saturday. Unfortunately, the challenge won't be any easier with old foes Aberdeen the visitors who, as always, will be keen to inflict the most possible damage on us tomorrow. Rangers The Light Blues looked a tired bunch as the final whistle blew the other night. Alfredo Morelos was exhausted on his own up front whilst the likes of Jack, Tavernier and our central defence knew they'd been in a game as well. Even the rested Steven Davis had to come off the bench after 20mins for the injured Joe Aribo so I'd fancy most players enjoyed an ice-bath of sorts yesterday at Auchenhowie. It says a lot for the efforts of Livi over the last couple of seasons that our manager kept changes to a minimum in West Lothian when some fans, yours truly included, felt rotation to some degree would be likely. Instead, aside from Davis, Steven Gerrard went for pretty much his strongest XI available to him which was a slight surprise, knowing the difficult match ahead this weekend - followed by next midweek's trip to Switzerland. Does this mean the manager will make changes for tomorrow or ask his preferred first XI to give him three more 90mins of endeavour before some can take a well-earned rest over the international break? Personally, I think it's asking a lot but with Aberdeen themselves just off the back of an extra-time and penalty loss to Hearts, perhaps the team won't need to be as fresh as we'd normally like meaning changes can again be kept to a minimum. On the other hand, it has to be frustrating to some of the fringe players that they've been unable to feature for more than the odd cameo when some of our players are clearly tired and not in the greatest of form. For example, James Tavernier remains a key outlet for us but is playing poorly, whilst the same can be said of Scott Arfield ahead of him. Connor Goldson and, especially, Filip Helander didn't enjoy their task the other night either so after he was 'rested' on the back of a poor display against Livi in the league, Niko Katic may well be expecting a recall at some point this week. Generally though, I doubt the manager will be tempted into rotation this weekend. He's on record as saying he wants to keep this defence playing together and, some dodgy moments aside, we have had three clean sheets in a row. Midfield will see an enforced change with the head injury Aribo suffered meaning Kamara should retain his place in the starting XI alongside Davis and Jack. Further forward is where we may seen some revision though. Alfredo Morelos has been top class recently but was clearly exhausted as the game ended on Wednesday. Jermain Defoe didn't feature the other night but did score two last week and started against Aberdeen when we beat them 2-0 in April; making a nuisance of himself throughout. The aforementioned Arfield also remains off-form so he or the inconsistent Ojo may be taken out for King, Stewart or Barker if fit. Aberdeen Our visitors haven't had the best start to the season and threw away a winning position twice against Hearts. However, last weekend they did beat Livingston (sans the suspended Dykes) so will remain a tough proposition tomorrow. They have lost players like Dominic Ball, Max Lowe and Graeme Shinnie from last year's team so it's not a surprise they've perhaps lost a bit of competitive edge but the likes of Lewis Ferguson and the impressive Sam Cosgrove remain so anyone thinking Derek McInnes or his squad will roll over at Ibrox are in for a rude-awakening. Nevertheless in our last meeting five months ago, we were by far the better team so our manager will be looking for that same quality (and more clinical finishing) this weekend. Coincidentally James Tavernier scored two penalties in that game and referee Don Robertson sent someone off for a flying elbow so sometimes your expectations are met! Conclusion Other than our loss against Celtic at the start of the month, it's been a decent September results-wise for Rangers. Yet, at the same-time, it's not unfair to say performances have not been as consistent or as good as we'd like. There have been some excellent periods of play in our four wins but, too often for me, also the kind of sloppiness on the ball we seen in the Old Firm defeat. Similarly, as much as players like McGregor, Jack and Morelos have been at the top of their game, other key figures such as Tav, Arfield and Goldson have not. With that in mind, it's been a shame we've not seen more rotation but in the race for silverware and European co-efficient credibility, perhaps chopping and changing his team is a luxury our manager can't afford. After all, Rangers fans demand wins and demand success so risking any momentum in any match is a risk when Celtic especially remain unbeaten. That's just how it is at Rangers and, in a week where Steven Gerrard was recommended as Jurgen Klopp's (eventual) successor at Liverpool we're fortunate to have a manager - albeit still a novice - who understands the often unreasonable expectations of fans. As such, we'll have to trust his judgement when it comes to player selection and game management during busy schedules. However, another win will be expected tomorrow with no mitigation offered if three points aren't forthcoming. The pressure is only just starting to build... Possible Starting XI
  14. When Mark Allen left Rangers last Friday it's fair to say there was some interesting comments about how well he'd done in the job. Some 'chief sportswriters' decided to concentrate on the poor player signings made during his two years at the club whilst others felt his legacy was the capture of Steven Gerrard. The more pragmatic amongst us felt the analysis had to be more general and perhaps even empirical. Have Rangers improved in the last two years? The answer is yes, of course. Yet, at the same time, without any tangible success by way of trophies, just how is such improvement measured? Well, in an era of four qualifiers just to reach the group stage of European football's consolation competition, one way of defining 'success' is by examining progress in an environment Scottish clubs (and certainly their national team) have struggled to do well in. And, given Rangers have traversed these qualifiers for two seasons in a row now, I think Mark Allen and Steven Gerrard, deserve credit. There has been no silverware as yet but the money and prestige banked from two years in the Europa League Group Stage have to be considered laudable achievements in themselves as Rangers attempt to bridge the huge financial gulf between them and Celtic. Feyenoord For our Dutch opponents, their recent story is fairly similar. Financial problems ten years ago lasted for several seasons and included transfer bans and historic 10-0 defeats to rivals such as PSV. It was a difficult period for the club and only around the time Rangers themselves were thrown down the Scottish leagues after administration did they start to recover. Finally, after eight years without any silverware and 18 years after their last Eredivisie, Feyenoord again become Dutch champions in 2016/17. Their recovery period was long and fans impatient for success but via hard work, once again their showed their quality as one of Holland's best clubs. The last two seasons has seen PSV and Ajax take the respective titles but the early signs this term suggest Feyenoord will challenge again, even if they're a few points behind Ajax and PSV in the table for now. The Rotterdam side remain unbeaten though and, as a seeded team, have cruised through two tricky Europa League qualifiers against Dinamo Tbilisi and Hapoel Be'er Sheva. Suffice to say the challenge Rangers face tonight is another step up to that we've faced this season. If fit, attacking players such as Nicolai Jørgensen and Steven Berghuis will be a threat to our defence but we'll be hoping to cause the Dutch back-line problems too given they conceded two late own goals at the weekend to Den Haag. Rangers Onto the Rangers team then and, despite a disappointing injury to Ryan Kent, once again Steven Gerrard has plenty of options available to him. And, once more, the questions are fairly to similar of recent games. Does he stick by Connor Goldson and Niko Katic in central defence despite some uncertainty between the pair in the last two league games? That seems most likely with neither Helander or Edmundson able to break into the team properly as of yet. Of course a back three is possible at some point as well but improbable for such a big game. Who gets the nod at left back? Andy Halliday started on Saturday and, as usual, did OK without being spectacular. Barisic may offer more attacking balance and defensive protection against the pace of Feyenoord wingers Luciano Narsingh and Sam Larsson so the Croat should be favoured. Does he opt for width in attack or go for the compact formation we seen in games such as the Celtic match? If it's the latter then we may see Glen Kamara start with either the Finnish midfielder or Nigerian international Joe Aribo alongside Scott Arfield in the attacking half-space roles with the width provided by the full backs. That would support a start for Barisic given the same system with Jon Flanagan failed in the Old Firm game. However, it's more likely a deeper three of Davis, Aribo and the returning Ryan Jack is deployed with any two from Barker, Arfield and Ojo behind Morelos in the attacking positions. Barker in particular showed up well at the weekend and can stretch the game more if required. However, he's inexperienced at this level so Ojo may again be preferred. Summer signing Andy King from Leicester City may be Gerrard's trump card should he fancy something unexpected. Conclusion All things considered it's very hard to separate the teams and a very close, though possibly very open, game is on the cards tonight. With home advantage Rangers may be considered slight favourites and the possibility Feyenoord won't sit in might favour us given we often do our best European work on the counter and when given space to operate. For their part, Jaap Stam's men will fancy their chances of causing us problems too and despite some recent injuries carry plenty threat in attacking areas. That will mean plenty of scrutiny on our back-line and we'll need to be at our best defensively to avoid conceding. With that in mind, I suspect Allan McGregor may be an important figure tonight and a lot will again be asked of Alfredo Morelos up front: not only to help us maintain possession in attacking areas but to take any good chances that he can forage. However, if we're to take three important points and make a good start we'll need the kind of team performances and strength of character that has seen Rangers improve under the guidance of Steven Gerrard. It's very tough to call but I'm confident of a home win to add some light to what has been a dark 24 hours after the untimely passing of Fernando Ricksen. Possible team (4-3-2-1)
  15. I think it's fair to say that if we rewind a few weeks back to September 1st, most of us were in a disappointed mood after being beaten at home by Celtic in the league. As such, it was vital that, after the international break, the team got back to winning ways: not just in terms of fan morale but for the players and any thoughts of trophy success we might have. To their credit and, although our form hasn't exactly been consistently sparkling, we have won all three games since, including a wonderful (and rather emotional) win last midweek in the Europa League. All things considered, I find it somewhat interesting that instead of arguing about us losing points in games we should have won (see recent reasons), some fans are now debating our best two centre-halves or our attacking midfield balance, no matter whether we win 4-0 or 1-0. Rangers With the above in mind, Wednesday night's match away to Livingston in the Betfred Cup is an interesting one when we want to discuss team selection. Does the manager risk progression in a tournament that may provide a chance of some much-needed silverware by rotating the bulk of his starting XI? Or will he stick with a core XI of trusted players capable of providing a result in West Lothian and being fit and ready for the visit of Aberdeen to Ibrox just 72 hours later? As I write this, I'm still not sure of the answer and may well change my mind by the time I reach the end of this preview. On one hand, our squad is a big one and should be capable of rotating players in and out with ease. I also don't think it's disrespectful to suggest teams like Livingston would love to have the option of players like Polster, Edmundson and Kamara to freshen up their side. However, making too many changes could also unsettle the team and, in the last round against East Fife, the 'deputies' were hardly outstanding on the artificial surface of the joint League 1 leaders. Let's not forget Livingston also beat us at home last season on their own 4G pitch so anyone approaching tomorrow's match expecting an easy win hasn't been paying attention. For what it's worth though, I think the key factor may well be the fact we have such a tough match on Saturday. As such, asking the bulk of the side to play Thursday and Sunday of last week, as well as this Wednesday and Saturday doesn't make sense when you've put together such a large (and capable) squad. Of course having a settled team is best but managing the load of players - more so our best players - is very important in modern football. We seen as much when our player of the season so far Ryan Jack returned injured from international duty. That means I think we will see a markedly different team from that which won handsomely in Perth; indeed it may well be similar to the one that beat East Fife last month. That could mean starts for the likes of Foderingham, Polster, Edmundson, King, Stewart and Defoe. And it's been no coincidence that both the manager and Michael Beale have sung the praises of most of these fringe lads in their interviews of late. My team at the bottom of the preview represents nine changes from Sunday and that does make me rather uncomfortable but not so much as injuries or avoidable strain on players I'd consider first choice ahead of two important matches this weekend and next Thursday. The manager's thinking will be fascinating tomorrow night in that regard! Livingston It's only been ten days since we played Gary Holt's men at Ibrox in what turned out to be a tense league affair. After a fairly wasteful first half where Rangers were guilty of missed chances and some bad luck, Livi took the lead from a stonewall penalty just after half-time. Fortunately, we replied quickly with some good fortune and fine finishing to run out comfortable winners in the end. However, the 3-1 win doesn't tell the full story. Although he was sent off just after our second goal, Lyndon Dykes stood out for the away side for most of the game and arguably gave Niko Katic in particular his toughest physical/aerial test of the season. The big striker worked our back-line hard for much of his time on the park, won the penalty and helped create space for his team-mates at set-pieces as we struggled to contain his physical play. After missing Livi's game at the weekend against Aberdeen due to that red card he'll be extremely eager to offer the same threat tomorrow. And, with other experienced, strong players such as Bartley and Erskine, the home side will again be a danger if we don't match them in effort and strength. Perhaps another reason for ensuring the team is fresh? Conclusion Guessing the Rangers team is a past-time we all enjoy ahead of games and it's usually good fun amongst fans. Chopping and changing the team for games against East Fife is also easily dismissed without concern when we have Europa League qualifiers a few days later. However, as cup competitions progress and league games get steadily more meaningful, the juggling act of squad rotation without affecting consistency and quality becomes an increasingly tricky and serious skill. How many changes can you make to your best XI without compromising results? Two or three? Five or six? The whole team? Ultimately, it's down to the manager: he signs the players and he knows whom he can rely on thereafter. At least at Rangers there's one constant. We have to win all our games. That's not too much to ask, is it?! Possible team (4-3-2-1)
  16. Sorry folks, I didn't have time to put anything together for this game but feel free to use this thread for match discussion. After a tiring 90mins on Thursday you'd expect a good few changes today in terms of the team.
  17. The SPFL Premiership is well underway now, and two teams who are in the top three will do battle at Ibrox to celebrate the resumption of the Scottish league from the international break. Both sides have enjoyed excellent starts to the season, but there is a heavy favourite to get all three points when Rangers host Livingston. Rangers The international break came at the right time for Rangers after suffering a defeat in the Old Firm match against Celtic. But regardless, it is just one loss in an impressive start to the season, and they can get back on track with a home win against Livingston. Rangers have signed a host of young players over the summer, and the second season could see Steven Gerrard get even closer to bringing a first SPFL title to Ibrox since 2011. However, the Old Firm result has given the fans a clear sign that there is still work to be done on the training ground. Rangers went into the game as the favourites with the bookmakers as they had started the season with three straight wins, and also reached the group stages of the Europa League after a last-gasp winner from Alfredo Morelos against Legia Warsaw. However, the Rangers dominance we’re all hoping to see isn’t there just yet. Goals from Odsonne Edouard and Jonny Haynes did all the damage, while a late red card to Jordan Jones once again showed a lack of discipline from Rangers. Gerrard made a big decision before the game as he started with Jermain Defoe over Morelos; despite the Colombian already scoring ten goals in 12 appearances this season. The decision backfired as Defoe didn’t offer the same movement in the forward positions as Morelos, but Gerrard stated that his decision was as much about Morelos’ discipline as it was tactical. Prior to the Old Firm result, Rangers had won three straight league games and averaged three goals per game but that cutting edge in the forward positions was severely lacking in the derby. They have however been boosted since that fixture with the arrival of Ryan Kent from Liverpool in a £7 million deal. The Gers have been fighting to get the deal for the attacker over the line throughout the summer after Kent impressed while on loan at Ibrox last season. He shoould make his second debut for the club against Livingston, and he could make an immediate impact. Livingston It’s only the second season back in the top flight for our West Lothian opponents, but they have already caught the eye this term and currently sit in a somewhat surprising third place in the league table. They are also unbeaten in the league after winning and drawing twice. They have won their last three in all competitions, with their most recent 2-1 success over St Mirren showing that they have undoubted quality in the forward positions. Alan Lithgow and Lyndon Dykes scored the goals for Livingston in this win, and this victory backed up a 4-1 success at Ross County. They have scored eight goals already in this campaign, which means they are averaging two goals per game. The signings of Jon Guthrie and Nicky Devlin, both from Walsall, have also improved the defence since their arrival. They have conceded four goals this season, which is already one less than they had conceded at the same point last season. However, a trip to Rangers will be a true test of how good this Livingston side really is, but it looks unlikely that they will be able to compete with the 'Gers. Head to Head Rangers hold the advantage in the overall record between the sides having won on 18 occasions, while Livingston have only won three matches against the Gers, including the first fixture between the teams this time last year. Gerrard’s side did beat Livingston twice last season; both games ended 3-0. There have also been seven draws between these two sides. Prediction Rangers will know that they can’t have any more slip-ups if they want to mount a serious challenge to Celtic, and their home matches will be particularly important to those chances. Rangers will head into the game as the 1/5 favourites to win the match.
  18. It's been a little over 24 hours since I put together yesterdays preview for last night's game against Legia. Nevertheless, after what was another fine result, I think Rangers fans feel even better than ever and the confidence obtained from the late win should increase morale further amongst the recovery ice baths at Auchenhowie this morning. Yet, as has been the case for the last two summers, doing well in European qualifiers means an extremely tough schedule of games so we'll need to recover quickly for the visit of Celtic in Sunday's top of the table clash. At least we're not travelling back from Russia after playing a game with nine men this time! Our season so far Twelve games played, ten wins, two draws, zero losses, 32 goals scored and only five conceded is impressive form in anyone's book. Sure, the likes of St Joseph's and St Mirren may not be considered Europe's (or even Scotland's) elite but wins over Hibs, Kilmarnock and negotiating the last two European qualifiers have shown Rangers to be a markedly different outfit this season. Yes, we still have that quality in possession but, so far at least, we've added a defensive steel to our game and an ability to find winners in games that we'd have previously dropped points. The worth of late goals in our Premiership opener at Rugby Park and at Ibrox last night cannot be under-estimated and that kind of dogged patience and resilience is essential if success is to be found. Celtic Last year's champions have played the same number of games as us and have a very similar record, losing only one game so far to drop out of the Champions League. They've also scored seven more goals than us but, importantly, have conceded seven more also which shows although they're clearly very dangerous in attack, the additions they've made at the back haven't yet proven their worth. Moreover with their best defender Kristoffer Ajer hobbling off again early in their game last night, Neil Lennon may be forced into further changes at Ibrox on Sunday. Ajer has been playing right back of late so their new loan signing from Stoke, Moritz Bauer may make his debut in favour of Anthony Ralston. It will also be interesting to see if Lennon sticks with Nir Bitton in central defence and Boli Bolingoli at left back. This is a back-line the Rangers attack will want to ask questions of. Further forward, Celtic have many threats of their own. From Edouard and Forrest to Johnston and Christie, there's a strength and mobility to Celtic that will mean if we switch off at all, we will be punished. Quite simply this will be the biggest test of the season so far for our defence and midfield so let's hope for the kind of physically dominant performances we seen at Ibrox last season where we won both games comfortably. Rangers If there was one other important benefit from last night it was the fact we didn't need to play extra-time. After last year's exertions with nine men against Ufa, it was obvious we struggled to match Celtic in a tired display at Parkhead a few days later. As such we started the game overly defensive and lacked sharpness on the ball. With that in mind, Steven Gerrard may be eager to freshen up his team on Sunday. But, given Celtic are the ones returning from a trip to the continent (albeit from a much easier game) then both sides will have players who've already played around a fifth of their expected games this season. With that in mind, will we see a return to the team for the likes of Flanagan, Kamara and Defoe? Might Filip Helander even make his competitive Ibrox debut? How much longer can we persevere with what seems to be a jaded Scott Arfield? Ultimately, we need a good result from Sunday to maintain confidence ahead of a much needed international break. Even a draw wouldn't be a bad outcome but a win would take us top of the table by three points and would represent the perfect start to a season that is going to be long, gruelling and a test of all our characters. In that sense, I think the manager may ask for one last pre-break push from his trusted lieutenants which should mean a familiar look to the Rangers starting XI on Sunday. Once again James Tavernier will be expected to lead from the right hand side and, if his eye cut swelling reduces enough, I suspect Borna Barisic may be favoured over Jon Flanagan at left back. Not only does the Croatian have the pace to deal with the threat of James Forrest, his set-piece ability could be vital again this week. Importantly, despite having to go off last night, he did well against Legia and that trust in him may be repaid on Sunday. In midfield both Ryan Jack and Steven Davis were immense against the Poles so should be certain starters. Joe Aribo was a wee bit quieter last night so, after three straight games for the Nigerian international, Glen Kamara may well be favoured to strengthen our midfield. Similarly Sheyi Ojo never really got going in the Legia match and with Jordan Jones supplying the cross for Morelos' winner, he should get the nod to make his Old Firm debut. Scott Arfield was taken off last night and isn't in the best of form but his experience will see him start as well. Up front is a wee bit trickier to guess but I'd expect Morelos to beat Jermain Defoe to the sole striker's role. Conclusion Old Firm matches are often famously hard to predict. Form doesn't always come into it whilst, although Celtic have had the upper hand in recent years for obvious reasons, last season Rangers were a hugely different proposition and were the better team in three of the matches. With that in mind, Steven Gerrard may well look to fill his team with players who featured in those games. Indeed, with Celtic possibly having more Old Firm debutantes than us on Sunday then that may prove to be an interesting tangent to a annual contest that is full of fascinating nuances around it. Yesterday's article title was 'Mission Possible' where I concluded we should be aiming to win the Legia and Celtic matches. We've completed the first task but now have an even tougher one to address. The destination of the league title is far from known and, hopefully, won't be until well into next year but Sunday's encounter will show us just how capable this new, improved Rangers side is. A carbon copy of the two corresponding games at Ibrox last year would be very much welcomed and a suitable demonstration of a much needed title challenge. It's only Friday but he battle fever is already abound. Possible starting XI (4-3-2-1):
  19. Problems with UEFA and perhaps some grumblings about one or two positions in the team aside, you won't find many unhappy Rangers fans as September approaches. An unbeaten summer programme of games at home and abroad has led us to what will be a key week in how this season (and arguably next) develops. First of all we have the chance to qualify for the Europa League group stage tonight and secure the best part of £10m for the club before taking on Celtic at Ibrox on Sunday with a win there guaranteeing us top position by three points after a tricky selection of league games through August. Two wins and morale will be through the roof but anything less then, as is normal at Rangers, smiles will turn as quickly turn into frowns as the recent summer heat turns into an autumn chill. The First Leg Although Steven Gerrard may well be disappointed with the lack of an away goal from Warsaw last week, he will be pleased with our general play. Legia did create a few reasonable openings but generally were limited to set pieces as their main threat where, by and large, we also coped okay with the Poles. Meanwhile, for much of the game, Rangers kept possession well and also created a few reasonable chances ourselves with Alfredo Morelos missing the best of these late in the game. Suffice to say the manager's prediction that this tie will go down to the wire looks to be correct. However, I'd also contend if you'd said to him that we'd need only win by any score at home then he'd have been happy with that pre-match last week. Legia Our opponents rested the vast majority of their team in their league win over Lodz at the weekend with only 'keeper Majecki and defender Stolarski retaining their place as the came from behind to win 3-2 away from home and retain their own unbeaten start to their season. Manager Aleksandar Vuković will make changes again for tonight's game and despite several bookings in the first leg, is expected to play largely the same XI as week as they seek to emulate their 2-0 away win over Atromitos in the last round. Not to mention their win over Celtic by the same score-line at Murrayfield in 2014. It's fair to say the Poles know how to play on their travels. Let's also hope the Slovenian officials are more aware of their gamesmanship than the French ones last week. Rangers For Steven Gerrard, one has to imagine he will look to keep a similar team to the first leg as well. Although our most expensive signing of the window Filip Helander has done fairly well in his two domestic starts so far, the partnership of Goldson and Katic has been an extremely solid one for Rangers this summer so the Swede may well need to wait until he has full match sharpness before displacing one of the first choice pairing. At full back, Borna Barisic showed he's not always a passive observer with a fine free kick winner in Paisley and it will be interesting to see if he retains his place tonight. Jon Flanagan has proven his defensive usefulness in Europe already this term but with goals a necessity for Rangers tonight, Barisic may well get the nod on the left flank, if not from the start but certainly later in the game. In midfield, we have a host of players we can choose from - both in terms of the deeper three and the more attacking two players. Recalled international midfielder Ryan Jack has arguably been the pick of the bunch and will be a certain starter this evening. The experienced Steven Davis and one of Joe Aribo and Glen Kamara should form the rest of the deeper three. Further forward is less difficult to anticipate. Sheyi Ojo picked up a knock in Warsaw last Thursday but trained fully yesterday so should be available tonight. As such it should be between him, Jordan Jones and perhaps Andy King for one of the positions behind the striker. Scott Arfield will surely occupy another but after 85mins last week and the same again at New Love Street, will the Canadian be better utilised from the bench later in the match? Or might Joe Aribo be pushed into a more attacking position with Glen Kamara retained deeper to provide some defensive insurance? Other options include Greg Stewart, Jake Hastie and Jamie Murphy but it would be a big surprise if they featured. In the lone striker role, neither Morelos or Defoe haven't let us down so far this season so it's a big positive that the manager can select either and pretty much ensure a tough time for opposition defences. It will surely be the Colombian to start tonight though and he'll been keen to make the most of any opportunities a stiff Legia defence may offer. We will have to take any chances that come our way. Conclusion All things considered, it's a fool's errand to try and split these teams. Both are unbeaten in their competitive games this season, both seem strong at the back and both look capable of scoring from open play and at set pieces. Yet with home advantage, Rangers must consider themselves favourites tonight. That's not to say Legia are not a very good team or won't fancy their own chances but if we're to compete with the best Europe has to offer then these are the kind of difficult tests we must pass. A win tonight and again on Sunday is very much mission possible for this Rangers team. It's now time to prove it. Possible Starting XI (4-3-2-1):
  20. A bit of a wishwash but I was writing between the chores on my wife's list.
  21. Not got time to write a full preview this morning but I'd expect a fair amount of changes to the team but with a few senior players retained to ensure quality and experience can help any newbies. Guys like Polster, Hastie and King may also feature from the bench. Looking forward to what should be another win but it won't be easy on a crap, artificial pitch next to the Forth in such windy conditions. However, that just means extra onus on us to move the ball well and show our quality.
  22. A Point to Prove Intro The surprise loan of Glenn Middleton from Rangers to Hibs appears to signal a thawing in the icy relations between the clubs of late, but there will be little sign of that when the sides go head to head this weekend in a game which both sides will aim to make a springboard for their season. Background to Game Both come into the tie on the back of opening day victories but still very much with a point to prove. After an overwhelmingly positive pre-season, Rangers failed to convince with a laboured victory at Rugby Park which had an all too familiar feel to it. However, Thursday’s fabulous performance in Denmark has gone a long way to quelling those fears and putting the fans at ease again. Hibs had a similar opening day to Rangers when they left it late to grind out a win over a St Mirren side they would have expected to dispatch of comfortably at Easter Road. Head to Head History For a long time Hibs were not a side Rangers had to worry too much about. In 32 games between 1996 and 2005, Hibs recorded only one victory. The return of Walter Smith in 2007 saw this pattern continue with only 2 losses in 20 games. However, since Rangers were demoted Hibs have proven to be a thorn in their side, restricting the Gers to a mere 8 wins in 22 games. This dismal record continued under Steven Gerrard last season as a poor Hibs side were allowed to land a severe blow to Rangers’ title hopes by holding them to three draws, costing the Ibrox men 6 crucial points. However the tide has started to turn and last season was the first season since 2011-12 that Rangers were unbeaten against Hibs and the one-sided games were a sign that the new rivalry between the clubs is not likely to last. The Opponent A change in regime at Hibs mid-season saw Heckingbottom take the reins and rescue their campaign as they embarked on an unlikely 10 game unbeaten run which lifted them from 8th to 5th place. This was the highest possible finish for the Englishman so it was a massive achievement. Lennon had built his house on the sand of loan deals and favours from Celtic and paid the price in his final season when the latter dried up after the John McGinn saga. Lennon was weighed in the balance and found wanting. Heckingbottom has had a summer to re-build and, in a break from the club’s previous strategy, he is building for the future. Lennon’s Hibs were propped up by the short termist strategy of flooding the squad with loan players and in his final season he made seven loan signings. Remarkably, Heckingbottom has made only two loan signings and has preferred to utilise his extensive knowledge and connections south of the border to make 5 permanent signings who are all between the ages of 23 and 26. The signing of Scott Allan had already been agreed before he came in but is very much in keeping with this strategy. Form Having said that, this season’s Hibs squad doesn’t look like the improvement over last season’s that the fans were expecting. The opening day performance was slow, laboured and lacking dynamism. The loss of Martin Boyle to injury was a huge blow in terms of the team’s attacking threat but Heckingbottom and Leanne Dempster were smart to move quickly to smooth things over with Rangers and secure Glenn Middleton on loan to replace him. Middleton has the ability to provide the pace and end product they are lacking but will not feature this weekend so answers will have to be found elsewhere. Dangerman Mallan and Horgan are both players with the ability to create and shoot from distance but the dangerman without doubt is Scott Allan. Rangers know all too well what Allan is capable of and everything Hibs did well against St Mirren went through him and it was no co-incidence that it was he who saved the day with an impressive winner. Rangers Despite Rangers’ midweek heroics, they still come into the game with a point to prove. Last season Hibs were a bogey team and Gerrard will be determined to vanquish any similarities to last season from the off, not least after the Kilmarnock game when the accusations flooded in that nothing has changed. Furthermore, dropping points ahead of the first Old Firm game of the season on the 1st of September is not an option. It is absolutely crucial that Gerrard takes his men into that game with the chance to go 3 points clear and give themselves a lead to defend and maintain from there on. This, more than anything, will signal to the fans and the country that this season is different. The line-up is difficult to predict. Last season the goalkeeper was not rotated but McGregor is a year older and Foderingham rotated in at Rugby Park after the Progres game last week and is likely to do so again on Sunday. The backline was not rotated after Progres but Katic and Flanagan will be conscious of the competition and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Barisic and Edmundson start in a home game where we will dominate the ball. Helander didn't make the bench in Jutland and Gerrard has been wise not to throw him in and risk damaging his reputation before he is fit and ready. Davis is likely to return to the three in midfield but Kamara offered the fans a reminder of his quality and class in Denmark and this will surely leave Gerrard with another headache. Arfield will always keep his place unless he is unavailable but Jones can rightly feel under threat in a position with no stand-out player as of yet. The addition of Brandon Barker from Man City is likely to have more to do with opportunism than a feeling that he will significantly improve the team, but it will nevertheless make a few nervous. In any case, Ojo is likely to step in for Jones and this is another example of a position the club now have enough depth in to allow for fresh legs to be brought in after a European game. Defoe will rotate back in after Morelos starred midweek and the option of bringing in a fresh striker after European excursions is brand new to Gerrard and could be a crucial factor in this league campaign. As important a player as Morelos is, he isn't the fittest player in the world and the aerially dominant Darren McGregor will not relish the prospect of facing a fresh and hungry Jermaine Defoe who scores his goals on the deck. Predicted Line-up - 4-3-2-1 Predicted Score - Rangers 2-0 Hibs
  23. The great thing about playing in Europe is that the games come thick and fast. I have just unpacked my bag after returning from Luxenbourg and already League Match day One is upon us. The serious stuff starts today. Not that Europe isn't serious stuff but the league competition is our bread and butter. Europe is a nice juicy apple to bite into but our “Repas Principal” is the league competition. We were all a little bit disappointed with our 0-0 draw against Progrès Niederkorn and really it should have been an easy win given the chances we had. I try and look on the positive side of the performance and for me that was that Niederkorn never looked like they could clench a fist against us. All they did was circle the wagons and try to keep the score at 0-0. It would have been worse if we hadn't created any chances but the fact is we created 4 or five guilt edged chances. To win games we have to learn to take those chances but hopefully once we have a fixed team the goals will come, Today we nick doon the road to Kilmarnock where we have a score to settle from last season. Although we beat them early doors 3-1 in the league cup last season they managed two wins against us at Rugby park in the league. Steve Clark had them playing in a close defensive, well orginised unit who could break at speed and make the best of the chances they got. That style served them well with them taking the third spot on 67 points together with Aberdeen but with six more goals than Aberdeen. Since then they have lost some key players and also Steve Clark their manager who left to fill the Scottish managers job. Or should I say the Celtic select team. They have brought in Angelo Allessio to replace Clark and he has tried to get them playing a different style of football with pretty poor results up to now with them crashing out of Europe by Connah's Quay. After winning the first leg 2-1 away from home they crashed to a 2-0 defeat in their own midden. It will be interesting to see what tactics Allessio will have them playing . Probably back to parking the bus and hoping on a break-away. The Rangers team is hard to predict at the moment as there are so many options open to Stevie Gerrard. I think he will keep Alan McGregor in goals but McGregor has been pretty shaky of late. I have no idea what he was doing on Thursday when he half punched a ball that looked very catchable to me. That threw up Niederkorn's best chance and we are lucky the Niederkorn No. 7 didn't fancy a shot with his right foot and ballooned it over the bar with his left from about eight yards out. Maybe bringing Wes in for a few games will waken McGregor up. Tavernier is a no-brainer for the right-back position. He wasn't great on Thursday but remains one of the best attacking full-back's in Britain. It is well known that I am not a Goldson fan but I don't know Edmundson good enough to know how he will stand up to the Scottish league so I will stay with the evil I know and keep Goldson in beside Katic who is in my opinion the best defender we have at the moment. People say he can't play a ball forward but in the games I watch he plays some excellent forward passes. He is a no-brainer for me. As the team will be announced shortly I will just give my team for today. Foderingham Tavernier Goldson Katic Baracic(if fit) Davis Kamara Docherty Arfield Aribo Morelos. Come on the Gers!!! Revenge is hopefully sweet.
  24. After finally (two years too late) disposing of Progres last week and an exciting, if also late, win over Kilmarnock on Sunday, Rangers return to European action tonight in Denmark. This time we face FC Midtjylland whom are an unknown quantity for most Rangers fans with only former Celtic defender Erik Sviatchenko familiar to the majority of us. However, the Danes are well experienced in the competition in recent years - even if they've only reached the group stage once, qualifying as well before being knocked out by eventual finalists Liverpool in the last 32 in 2015/16. They've shared the last five league titles with Copenhagen and are joint top with them in the Danish Superliga right now after four league matches. Suffice to say, this is no gimme. Fortunately, Rangers have had a good summer as well so can be confident in the tie. Although we've been less than convincing in our last few competitive games, we can take confidence from knocking out Progres very comfortably and also beating Killie on an awful pitch, despite losing a goal with just ten mins to go. Indeed, given set pieces are one of Midtjylland's biggest strengths, that may be a slight concern ahead of tonight's game in particular. With that in mind, Steven Gerrard's team selection will be interesting, especially in defence. Both Niko Katic and Connor Goldson have been key players in an attacking sense of late but, despite being fairly solid defensively in a general sense, both have had their dodgy moments as well. Goldson, in particular, misjudged the flight of free kick that led to Sunday's equaliser - an error we can ill-afford tonight. With other options such as Edmundson (he was a very late sub on Sunday) and Helander (perhaps still not match fit), it's not beyond the realms of possibility we may see a back three this evening. Full/wing back roles should again be taken by Tavernier and Barisic, even if both have struggled for form in recent weeks. Our midfield balance will also be important this evening, especially after a poor second half contribution from Sunday's selected three. Davis, Jack and Aribo have all done very well through July's friendlies and other qualifiers but none of the three were particularly effective against Kilmarnock. The same can be said for Ojo and Arfield in the attacking roles but the latter should find it easier to find space against the Danes. Ojo may well be replaced by someone like Docherty in favour of his drive and bob-to-box nature of his play. Others such as Glen Kamara, Jordan Jones and Greg Stewart will also be keen to step in if called upon. In attack (and barring any late transfer movement), Alfredo Morelos should lead the line tonight and will been keen to get scoring again if selected. The Colombian lacked decent service for much of the last two games but will hope his experience of the Scandinavian leagues is useful this evening. It's crucial that when we create any chances, we take them as an away goal could be vital in a tie that looks very hard to call. For the winners, a play-off round awaits in either Poland or Greece with the associated essential monies the group stage can yield. Given Rangers' continuing legal issues with restrictive retail deals and our nearest rivals selling players for £25m then such a reward cannot be underestimated. One by one all the hurdles are becoming bigger so let's hope we're all walking with a spring in our step later tonight. Possible XI (4-3-2-1):
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