Fri, Jul

Riding the wave - Rangers v St Johnstone

Match Analysis
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It's Friday morning and I have to admit I'm still basking in the glow of last night's excellent draw in Spain. OK, it might not have been our best ever European performance and we didn't even win the match but the positives are there for all to see.

First and foremost, there's character. Some discredited journalists may think our manager is 'quietly terrified' of the Rangers job but I see a man (along with his coaching colleagues) with a huge amount of self-belief and all of whom seem to relish the task. That clearly rubs off on our players who despite two setbacks yesterday kept plugging away to get an unlikely result.

Next there's quality. Sure, it's not the best ever Rangers squad and sloppy mistakes are made but even in mid September, the improvement in the team is obvious. We have more depth in the squad, can live with the physical battle and some of our attacking play is a joy to behold when we click.

Finally, there's teamwork. The most successful clubs aren't just about one or two individuals but are the sum of all parts. We undoubtedly have a few key players but it's because we're now functioning as a team that we're looking less vulnerable and more dangerous. That's the kind of solid foundation we will need to bring back trophies to Ibrox.

Of course we're still far from the finished article and, given our results so far this season, that's paradoxically perhaps a positive. I don't think I've really seen us fully click for 90mins yet and I'm still not sure Gerrard has managed to play his favoured XI or system either. When that happens, we might, just might be capable of challenging properly for the SPFL title.

Until then, and with such a busy schedule, we need to keep asking every player to contribute when called upon. The manager was right to point out last night the performance of his subs - all three of whom did the business when they came on. And with another tough match against St Johnstone on Sunday, more fringe players will have the chance to impress this weekend.

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Given the hot and humid conditions in Villarreal and the effort put in to secure a point, changes to the team are inevitable. I'd expect at least three changes and perhaps as much as five. Joe Worrell had a fine debut but may have to be content with a place on the bench again to allow Katic back into the team. Meanwhile, Borna Barisic went off with what seemed to be a thigh problem so Lee Wallace may well get the chance to start his first game since he went off injured over a year ago at Firhill.

I would expect James Tavernier to keep his place at right back - not because Jon Flanagan isn't an able deputy - but because I suspect Eros Grezda may start his first Rangers game on the right flank. As such the influence of Tav behind him may be a good idea. With such an impressive 20mins in Spain, Glenn Middleton may also get the nod ahead of Ryan Kent on the opposite wing. Alfredo Morelos should be a certain starter in attack as he returns from a European suspension.

More tricky to predict is the central, deeper players. We're lucky to have several options in there but with injuries to Jack, Ejaria and Rossiter, we're having to rely on players like Arfield, Coulibaly and Halliday. I don't expect that three to play for the third game in a row so Ross McCrorie may add a much needed freshness if Jack or Ejaria don't make it. The return of Graham Dorrans to hopefully full fitness this time will be another great option but he may remain a sub for the time being.

All in all, our excellent work in the summer transfer window means we can afford to rotate our squad given the schedule demands of the coming weeks. The big test will be doing that carefully enough as not to disturb momentum and keep delivering results. A draw on Thursday was well received but only three wins domestically over the next week will satisfy Rangers fans before Rapid Vienna visit Ibrox in a fortnight's time.

It's a difficult challenge but, so far at least, we appear well up for it. Let's keep riding that wave...!

Possible team (4-2-3-1):

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