Rangers make the long trip north to Pittodrie on Wednesday night to take on Derek McInnes' Aberdeen. The games against the Dons last season were trying, for fans and management alike; most trips to Pittodrie are difficult hunting grounds for Rangers teams, but Rangers can take a lot of confidence from recent results, including the last meeting between the sides.
It is easy to get distracted by the upcoming game at the weekend, but this represents a tough challenge; a crucial test that we need to pass. Our record against Aberdeen last season was terrible, culminating in them knocking us out of both cup competitions. We played Aberdeen seven times last season, winning only twice, drawing twice, but losing three times. No matter how well we played going into these games, getting a good result was a difficult proposition.
Gerrard himself has mentioned the challenge we face on Wednesday, saying "it will be a tough game. Certainly, in my time, we have had some battles up there."
"Aberdeen are a good team capable of going on good runs - Derek [McInnes] will get his team fighting all the way to climb up the league".
One of this Rangers squad's biggest assets this season is their ability to withstand intense pressure and weather hostile atmospheres, whether that is Feyenoord's De Kuip or Porto's Dragao. In both instances we have gone behind and managed to drag ourselves back into the game.
Pittodrie may not be a glamour tie, but it will be a hostile atmosphere, of which Gerrard is aware:
"We thrive and enjoy the atmosphere up there, the players have faced challenges such as Legia and Feyenoord so I don't think any of my players will be intimated by Pittodrie."
Rangers continued their good form beating Hearts on Sunday. The 5-0 win was their 5th on the bounce. Despite this string of good results, we're still a little too passive in games. We clearly have the ability to step it up, but we're almost drifting through games at times. We'll not be allowed to drift through this one.
Aberdeen have been in good form, scoring goals and winning the majority of their games - outwith their customary loss to Celtic. Although last weekend saw them stumble to a draw against lowly St Johnstone (despite having a two-man advantage for the last 15 minutes of the game) they followed it up with a win against St Mirren at the weekend.
Their main man is forward Sam Cosgrove, with the 22 year-old notching up 9 league goals this season -- almost half Aberdeen's entire tally. Altogether, he currently has 18 goals in 22 appearances. It's fair to say, if we can stop him, we take away Aberdeen's main threat. There is reportedly a host of Championship clubs interested in the Englishman.
Despite the poor head-to-head record last season, the last meeting between the sides was the emphatic 5-0 win at Ibrox. Rangers produced 27 shots to Aberdeen's meagre 4, with goals from Morelos, Stewart, Defoe and Tavernier wrapping up the victory. The manner of the result went a long way in shaking that monkey off our backs.
Funso Ojo is nearing a return for Aberdeen but will still miss out on the clash on Wednesday, while Scott Wright remains a long-term absentee. McInnes revealed that Craig Bryson’s ankle problem isn’t as bad as was first suspected, but after missing the St Mirren game, he may not be ready quite yet for Wednesday's game.
Aberdeen's win against St Mirren was a close one, apparently helped by an inability to get to grips with a new formation. They employed a 3-4-2-1 formation, with McGinn and Hedges playing off Cosgrove. Their three-man defence was vulnerable at set-pieces too. Aberdeen will probably revert to their more typical 4-2-3-1 formation against Rangers.
Rangers have no new injury concerns.
It is likely Gerrard will recall Jack to the side for this match, to play alongside Davis and Kamara; the three have been immense this season, providing a solid foundation to let the forwards, and full-backs, get forward. It has been a feature of our play to see the wide central midfielders drop out into the half-space to facilitate the build-up.
Further forward, Ojo may be preferred. Gerrard does seem to prefer Ojo's energy and running ability in the tight, cagey games. He is always a threat in the final third -- when he decides show up -- and he does put in a shift defensively. Alongside Ojo, it should be Kent, with Morelos leading the line.
This is a big test. Despite the good result when we last met at Ibrox, matches at Pittodrie are a different proposition. It will be a battle; good football often goes out the window. If Ranges can deal with the physical threat, and the players can win their individual battles, we'll give ourselves the opportunity to win. The threat lies on the counter. Aberdeen have a few pacey players, which can cause problems; and, of course, Cosgrove will be a threat we need to snuff out at every occasion. Rangers have shown an ability to stand up to the physical side of these games this season, so I'm looking forward to it.
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