It's been a somewhat strange season for Rangers so far: inconsistent results with intermittent good form, and all of this stop-start amidst international football disappointment. Essentially just as you think Pedro's squad are starting to find their feet, something happens to stop them in their tracks. From apparent fall-outs with Kenny Miller, to what seem like constant international breaks, and not forgetting the distraction of Old Firm fixtures, it's not a huge surprise we lack momentum at times. Nevertheless, with two good away wins in the bag in our last two matches, this Sunday's Betfred League Cup semi-final against Motherwell is the ideal time for Pedro's men to at last win three games in a row and seal another Cup final at Hampden. However, this will be far from easy.
In the last six games alone, Motherwell have matched us in terms of form and are just the one point behind us in the Premiership table. Indeed, only their loss against us on the opening day has stopped them occupying third ahead of our favourites. No wonder then their manager Stephen Robinson has been tied into a new contract along with some of their impressive players. Louis Moult may well be their most dangerous outlet in terms of goals but in Cadden, Kipre, Campbell and others the Lanarkshire men must be judged as a team capable of taking points off anyone else in Scotland.
Fortunately, despite the slow progress mentioned above, we're not doing so bad ourselves and with a 3-0 win against St Johnstone in Perth last Friday we not only showed improved defensive resilience but once again scored the goals our creative play merited. It's certainly shaping up to be an exciting, open game.
In terms of the Rangers first XI, there are unlikely to be many changes from the team that beat Saints so convincingly. As has happened previously, Jak Alnwick is likely to be chosen ahead of Wes Foderingham for this League Cup fixture and, given his excellent performance in the last round against Partick, there need be no worries there. Ahead of him, our preferred back four of Tavernier, Cardoso, Alves and John should be favoured once more - especially after their clean sheet at McDiarmid Park.
Moving into the midfield and depending on how Caixinha wants to set up tactically there is an opportunity for change there with Ryan Jack available again for selection after suspension. The manager may instead prefer to keep Jason Holt in the team who perhaps offers more than Jack in offensive areas and the former Hearts man has certainly shone up well in recent weeks. However, Jack has been one of our better players over the whole season so far which would mean his omission would be a surprise. Graham Dorrans will certainly play with his form steadying as he eases himself into being a key player at Rangers.
In front of the two holdings players, the more attacking three of Windass, Pena and Candeias are shoe-ins for Sunday's team. The latter has been the best of the three and has really done the business on the right of our midfield - both in terms of creating and scoring goals and also working hard defensively. Windass and Pena haven't been quite as effective but Pena especially is now starting to show the kind of sharpness and quality he'll need to pay back his manager's faith in him. All three will again be key players on Sunday and there defensive work will be just as crucial as their forward play.
Obviously this leaves one position up front and Alfredo Morelos should continue in the role that has seen him lead the line ahead of Herrera and Miller so far this season. The young Columbian may not have scored recently but the work he does in terms of creating space for others and his general link-up play has been of genuine quality throughout. Is it any wonder that Motherwell stopper Peter Hartley has joined the long list of people who think they can rough the lad up? We'll see on Sunday night who has the last laugh there...
And that's an issue worthy of discussing in conclusion. Motherwell have never been a team of shrinking violets and Hartley's words have ensured Sunday's game will be as much a test physically as anything else. We'll have to match the Steelmen in that vein throughout but, crucially maintain our discipline as well. Who will be our super hero this weekend?
Possible team (4-2-3-1):
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