I think I can safely say that most Rangers supporters will be saying thank heavens the international weekend has come and gone and we can get back to the nitty gritty of club football again. Well, I may have to retract that as most club supporters are probably unhappy that it comes around in the first place. Personally I prefer the old Wednesday night International games keeping the weekends for club football but with UEFA announcing a new International League system starting next season I would imagine that ship has sailed its last voyage.
Unfortunately the Scottish World Cup battleship never reached the Russian mainland but sunk as quick as the Titanic in the waters off Slovenia. In a recent documentary about the Titanic, evidence was brought forward that the damage to the ship was actually caused by a fire in a boiler at the beginning of the voyage. It had started before the ship docked in Belfast arriving from Liverpool. With the boiler still on fire the Captain thought it would burn itself out and and made the catastrophic decision to set sail towards America. Instead of the fire burning out it spread to the other boilers making the ship unstoppable and speeding towards an iceberg. Someone had ordered sub-standard rivets to build the ship and they were further weakened by the fire causing the 'unsinkable' ship to sink.
Funny enough, Scotland's European journey had the same ingredients. The irreparable damage was done early on in the journey. Despite the ship listing to one side Captain Strachan decided to sail on. The ship got up to full speed and then the rivets were torn out of the hull by the Ice cool Slovenians. Even a valiant final effort from the crew failed to save the sinking ship. It's good news that Captain Strachan decided to go down with the ship and not do a Francesco Schettino jumping the Costa Concordia and decide to save himself from the wreckage.
Meanwhile back at Auchenhowie, Pedro Caixinha has had the Rangers team back into dry dock. According to himself he has been giving the the whole defensive system a total refurbishment. While Rangers have been scoring and creating chances, some of the goals the team has been giving away have been a result of some pretty amateurish mistakes. In modern day football the defence includes the whole team. Defending starts from the front as they say. Many coaches these days work on a five second changeover. That means when a team lose the ball they should be pressing to win the ball back within five seconds. I have even heard some coaches try and make it a three second changeover but these type of players are not in Rangers price range at the moment.
In my eyes this is a big difference between Celtic and Rangers. If you see the speed they close down the opposition, normally with three players around the ball, it does make us look like light years behind them. Mark Warburton certainly had one thing correct and that was when he said "if we have the ball the opposition can't score". Unfortunately he preferred ball possession and rotation rather than Caixinha's quicker and more dangerous transition from defence to attack. In Warburton's slow build up we kept hitting our heads against an opposition wall as they had plenty of time to retreat. It looks like Rangers have been working on this as Caixinha stated in his pre-match interview for our game against St Johnstone on Friday night. He said that we have to stop St Johnstone playing the way they want. As they are likely to play with five players in midfield with a lone striker up front. That would mean to me to close down their midfield quickly in the opposition half isolating their striker. That scenario would of course offer perfect conditions for Michael O'Halloran but as he is on loan from us he will be left out for this game.
Pedro said in his interview that all players are starting to get fit so injury problems are starting to improve with only Lee Wallace still several weeks out. I would also imagine that it is too early for Kranjcar and Rossiter to play any role in the team just yet. However, I fully expect two changes from the 4-1 win at Hamilton with Alves returning to the heart of the defence and I also expect Jason Holt to come into the midfield to replace the suspended Ryan Jack. Pedro seems to have kissed and made up with Kenny Miller but I think the best King Kenny can expect is a place warming the dugout bench.
One thing we have learned from Alves' absence is that we have an excellent deputy in young Ross McCrorie and he can really hold his head up high at how he has performed. He really came in and excelled. Nevertheless, I cannot see Pedro leaving a fit Alves out of the team just yet but our defenders now know that their Alpha male status could be in danger if they are caught wanting as they now have a young challenger lurking in the background.
In conclusion, this could be an extremely difficult and tight game but hopefully we can pull out all the stops and it will be Rangers floating nearer to the top of the league and Tommy Wright's men left lying adrift in our wake. C'mon the Gers!!!
Possible team (4-2-3-1):
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