With another international break imminent, Rangers host Motherwell this Sunday in another important match at Ibrox. Recent weeks have been frustrating for fans, players and manager Steven Gerrard alike with just one win in the last five games: the team haven't played badly but inconsistency, attacking impotency and defensive mistakes have seen us lose games or drop points we should have won.
In all these games, Rangers have had periods where they've dominated possession and even in the games we lost (v Aberdeen at Hampden and Spartak in midweek) fans have come away disappointed knowing we could and should have done better. Add in two home draws to Spartak and Kilmarnock then last week's win at St Mirren is our only solace of late.
With that in mind, it's interesting to note the lack of consistency in team selection. Injuries and suspensions have proved problematic in this five-game period and the manager has been forced into changes he probably didn't want to make ahead of this international break. Yet, he also made five changes on Thursday night for the trip to Moscow from the team that won in Paisley so not every change was enforced. Given the defence's performance in particular against Spartak, fans are now asking why he won't persevere with a first choice back four instead of rotating Flanagan, Halliday, Katic and Worrall? Sure the sheer number of games will mean defensive change is necessary but wouldn't one at a time be more prudent than two?
Midfield has been another area of concern recently with the management team apparently struggling to find a suitable balance in the midfield three and again having to make regular changes. It has to be said none of Coulibaly, Ejaria or Arfield have really found genuine form lately whilst the likes of Rossiter and Jack seem unable to play two games a week due to injury concerns. Meanwhile, Ross McCrorie who had a decent debut season last term has struggled to get any game-time at all this season. We do have plenty depth centrally so it's vital we find a balance we can rely on.
Moving into attack, poor discipline at times aside, the contribution of Alfredo Morelos has been fantastic but the question is how long can the young Columbian maintain his goal-scoring and goal-creating form? With Kyle Lafferty unsurprising injured or having off-field issues, his signing has been a poor one so far - especially when the manager and fans seem less than enthused by Umar Sadiq. Morelos is one more booking away from an inevitable two-match domestic suspension so we have to have an alternative ready, willing and able for when this kicks in.
In support of the main striker, a jaded looking Ryan Kent has succumbed to a hamstring strain so it was good to see youngster Glenn Middleton start and score in his first European game on Thursday. However, to become a first choice, he has to certainly work on his positioning and concentrate at key moments. On the opposite wing, Daniel Candeias has been his usual reliable self but because of a laughable red card will be missing on Sunday. This should mean another start for winger Eros Grezda who has struggled to find full fitness after a pre-season injury at Osijek. The Albanian should prove to be a pivotal creative player through the rest of this season so fingers crossed he can enjoy a full Ibrox Stadium this weekend.
As for the opposition, they've won their last two SPFL games so will visit Glasgow in good spirits. We can expect further physical, direct play but the pace and creative play of guys like Chris Cadden and Allan Campbell cannot be ignored. As always Curtis Main will be their attacking focal point alongside Ryan Bowman who I'm sure will get a warm welcome from the home crowd. Their main threat may well be at set-pieces and after scoring three times against us at Fir Park, they'll want to do the same this weekend. Ironically in that match (for some of the opening period anyway) Rangers deployed a back three so the manager may consider that again this week - especially if Kyle Lafferty is available.
In closing, after this game Rangers will have two weeks off but Sunday's match and the next two (v Livingston and Villarreal - all at home) are vital ahead of an increasingly difficult and hectic schedule in December. Win all three and our season is poised perfectly ahead of nine (yes, nine!) games next month so that's the challenge the players and manager must set themselves. Despite our inconsistency they are capable and they'll have three sell-out crowds cheering them on while the rest of 2018 will certainly tell us a lot about the squad quality and depth we have. Keep believing seems ever more apt!
Possible team (4-3-3):
Tavernier | Goldson | Katic | Halliday
Jack | Arfield | Rossiter
Grezda | Morelos | Middleton
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