Rangers v Hibs preview: Defensive woes, duo to return, Gerrard to rotate?

Hibs travel to Ibrox to face a Rangers side fresh off a 4-2 victoy in Europe against Midtjylland.

Friday, 9th August 2019, 2:09 pm
The Hibs players are put through their paces ahead of Sunday's trip to face Rangers

The last time the two teams met at Ibrox, Allan McGregor was sent off for kicking out at Hibs forward Marc McNulty, with Ross McCrorie taking over in goals for the final few minutes.

Both sides recorded narrow wins on the opening day of the season; Hibs needing a Scott Allan goal to edge a 1-0 win over St Mirren at Easter Road while Connor Goldson's last-gasp header gave the Light Blues a 2-1 win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

Hibs go into this match light on full-backs with David Gray, Tom James and Lewis Stevenson all missing out through injury or recovery. Steven Whittaker and Sean Mackie are likely to take the right- and left-back slots respectively.

Winger Martin Boyle had surgery on his injured knee on Tuesday and is expected to be out until next year as he undergoes his rehabilitation.

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Ryan Porteous and Vykintas Slivka both played the full 90 minutes in midweek as Hibs Colts lost 4-3 to Elgin City in the Tunnock's Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup, and could be included in the matchday squad.

Magic number

15 - the number of appearances Sean Mackie has made for Hibs.

Possible teams

Rangers: AMcGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic; Arfield, Jack, Davis; Aribo, Morelos, Ojo. Subs (from): Foderingham, Katic, Edmundson, Flanagan, Docherty, Stewart, Polster, Halliday, Jones, Defoe.

Hibs: Marciano; Whittaker, D McGregor, Hanlon, Mackie; Vela, Mallan; Horgan, Allan, Newell; Kamberi. Subs (from): Maxwell, Jackson, Porteous, Slivka, Campbell, Doidge, F Murray, Stirling, Shaw, Gullan.

Key battle

Darren McGregor will have to be at his buffalo-wrangling best to tame Alfredo Morelos, who will be eager to add to his goal against Midtjylland.

Lowdown on opponents

Steven Gerrard’s first season in charge of Rangers brought an obvious improvement, but the pressure remains on the Ibrox side to prevent Celtic winning a ninth successive Premiership title.

That remains a top priority as far as the club and their supporters are concerned and Gerrard moved quickly into the transfer market this summer to further strengthen his squad with that in mind.

Northern Ireland midfielder Steven Davis and former England striker Jermain Defoe played a bit-part last season, but much will be expected of them this time round, their experience adding to new arrivals like Filip Helander, Joe Aribo, Sheyi Ojo, Jordan Jones and Greg Stewart.

Aribo has already caught the eye in Rangers’ early Europa League matches as has Ojo, on loan from Liverpool, but the one thing Gerrard has done is add competition for places throughout the team, which should help them compete on all fronts.

Discipline, however, is one aspect Gerrard will hope improves vastly, numerous red cards, most notably for the temperamental Alfredo Morelos, costing his side dearly.

Rangers made the group stages of the Europa League last season and doing so again and picking up at least one major domestic trophy must be the aim, although they’ll need to show greater consistency,

Gerrard readily admitting too many points were dropped, mainly to Hibs, Aberdeen and Kilmarnock.

A piece of silverware would be tangible proof of further progress but everyone within Ibrox knows finally bringing Celtic’s total dominance in the league to an end is the over-riding goal, the pressure clear in the reaction to that win at Killie.

Referee

John Beaton takes charge of this clash.