Match Preview: Motherwell vs Rangers

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It has been a strange week. The disappointment of last Sunday's Cup Final still lingers, and then the last minute equaliser against Young Boys was gutting, but we did still qualify for the last 32 of the Europa League -- a magnificent achievement.

And yet, I suspect we're all a tad deflated. That is two games, big games, where by all accounts Rangers played wonderfully; dominating the ball for long spells with an aggressive, stifling tempo and peppering the opposition goals with shots, but ultimately unable to take the chances that our performances deserved.

The matches come thick and fast this month, and next up in the League, Rangers travel to Fir Park to face Motherwell on Sunday.

Since the last meeting between the sides, Motherwell have been on a solid run of form. In their last seven matches, they have won 5, losing two (against Celtic and a surprise away defeat to Hibernian), and in that run, they have scored 13 goals. They have kept three clean-sheets in their last three games. This form has seen them jump over Aberdeen to claim the third spot in the League.

The last meeting between the sides was far from easy, despite Rangers claiming the 2-1 win at Ibrox. A unusual front-three of Barker, Defoe and Stewart started the game for Rangers but they struggled to find the breakthrough against a resolute Motherwell team despite being quite lively. An early goal for Motherwell was just what we didn't need, but Defoe equalised in added time at the end of the first half. It took a late Helander header to claim the points.

Despite doing well in recent visits, it is never a quiet day at the office at Motherwell. Of the last five league fixtures at Fir Park between the pair, Rangers have won three, with two high-scoring draws making up the other results.

In the game at Ibrox, Motherwell employed a 3-5-1-1 formation. They were compact both horizontally and vertically, looking to counter -- a tried and tested way to play against us. They let Rangers have the ball, and went direct as often as possible. The out-ball was to their #9, Long, who waited for the overlap from the wing-back. The other forward player would get himself into the box to receive the cross from the wing-back, or the ball would be cut-back to their #9. Their goal come from a long ball from the 'keeper to the wing-back, who knocked it on for the two roaming front players.

In their other games , Motherwell have employed a 4-3-3, sacrificing a defender for another attacking player. Against Celtic they employed the 3-5-1-1/3-5-2 as they did against us, to it is likely they will revert to that on Sunday.

Their key men in this set-up are the tall, pacey wing-backs, Jake Carroll and Bevis Mugabi, and their #9, Chris Long. Long is not much of a goalscorer, but he is a good target-man and has developed a good partnership with Devante Cole, who is usually deployed in a supporting role around him.

Motherwell remain without David Turnbull -- the central-midfielder was subject to a bid from Celtic in the summer --, and full-backs Christian Ilic and Charles Dunne. Their centre-back Declan Gallagher is one booking away from an automatic suspension.

Filip Helander and Steven Davis both missed the Europa League match on Thursday through injury. Helander looks to be out for another game or two with a foot injury, but Davis is pushing to return against Motherwell. Jordan Jones is also still out.

With Helander out, we could see Katic retain his place after being reinstated midweek. Katic will be more than capable of dealing with the physical threat of Long, but I wonder if he can deal with the pace? Could Edmundson perhaps come in? Katic is more likely.

Dealing with Motherwell's counter-attacking pace, snuffing it out before it begins, may well be the role of the midfield, which should be Jack, Davis and Kamara. Davis may not last the full 90 minutes, but his creativity and metronomic ability to dictate the tempo will be crucial.

Morelos and Kent seem certain to take two of the three forward spots. Alongside them, Gerrard may opt for the pace of Ojo or the guile of Stewart for this one. Aribo was magnificent against Young Boys, but he was dead on his feet towards the end; a rest is well-deserved. I'm a big fan of Stewart, so I'll opt for his inclusion.

Our performances have been phenomenal for the most part over the last week, but we are lacking a cutting edge. They were both big games, with an even match-up; both teams going for the win. Sunday's game against Motherwell will be different; they will be looking to defend deep, but aggressively, and counter with their big target man and pacey wing-backs. Rangers will need to be patient, but we have the quality to continue our good League form. I think I'd settle for a poor, but clinical performance for this one!

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