Over the last few weeks there’s been lots of talk about how Rangers are going to struggle when they, finally, renew hostilities with Celtic and how Brendan Rodgers’ side are runaway favourites going into this weekend’s Old Firm. But are Rangers REALLY onto a hiding to nothing? Can Mark Warburton’s side put a shaky start to the season behind them and pick up three points in their first visit to Parkhead in four years?
Well... yes. Despite being written off in some quarters Rangers are far from a side going to their biggest rivals looking to minimise the damage. From front to back Mark Warburton’s side have a similar quality as their opponents and, if everything goes to plan, there could be more than a few “experts” left looking silly come Saturday evening. This is, after all, a team which lost to Lincoln Red Imps. Going by the UEFA club rankings that’s like Real Madrid losing to Inverness Caley Thistle.
The signing of Philippe Senderos should give Rangers something a little different from what they have defensively and the Swiss defender could make his debut against Celtic. If Senderos does start it will likely be at the expense of Danny Wilson, who has had injury problems in recent weeks, and alongside Rob Kiernan there should be a pairing capable of handling Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele. Lee Wallace and James Tavernier are probably the two best full-backs in Scotland going forward although both have their flaws defensively, have shown in the past they can handle the likes of Patrick Roberts and James Forrest.
The performance of Rangers’ midfield trio will be crucial to any success and getting the selection right will be the most important decision Warburton will likely have. Barton or Rossiter can both sit in deep and shield the back four and although they haven’t really clicked when played together Warburton might stick with them and play them both from the start. Obviously, everyone wants to see Barton launch Scott Brown six feet in the air in their first 50/50. I’m sure the ex-Newcastle, Man City and Marseille man will oblige. With Niko Kranjcar, Harry Forrester, Andy Halliday, Josh Windass and (maybe) Jason Holt all competing for the other starting places then, if they play as they have shown they can, the battle for midfield dominance with Brown and Nir Bitton should go in Rangers’ favour.
Now, if you read our statistic-based analysis article the other day you’ll have seen that, although we haven’t been clinical in-front of goal, this Rangers side create chances. Joe Garner has shown he can score goals. Martyn Waghorn has shown he can score goals. Kenny Miller (especially against Them) has shown he can score goals. If Rangers can stop being as wasteful then there are goals there. The 7-0 win over Linfield suggests that, maybe, the team are starting to click. Maybe, as certain players get their fitness up to where it should be then this weekend and maybe, as the new signings get used to their new surroundings and team-mates Rangers are going to dish out the thumping we’ve all been waiting for this season.
And what better time than Saturday?
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