Rangers know there can be no slacking when they tackle Midtjylland in Thursday’s Europa League third qualifying round second leg at Ibrox.
Celtic ‘s Euro woes against Cluj on Tuesday served sufficient warning of that.
Which might explain the high tempo as Steven Gerrard put his players through a final session on Wednesday ahead of the fixture.
Rangers have a two-goal advantage heading into the match thanks to last week’s 4-2 win in Denmark.
But the tie is far from over, as Gerrard was at pains to point out in his pre-match conference. He said: “What last night (Celtic’s defeat) shows is that European ties are never over, even when you get a positive result in the first leg.”
And so Gerrard put his players through a rigorous session at Auchenhowie today. Here’s five things we spotted.
Morelos in the mood
Seven goals from seven games this season shows Alfredo Morelos has lost none of the hunger that saw him finish last season as the top scorer in the Scottish Premiership. He seems to be playing with real zest right now as his all-action display in Denmark last week showed – as did his two-goal appearance as a second half sub against Hibs on Sunday. Morelos looked right in the mood at training today as he crunched into tackles and staked his claim for a starting jersey.
And the Colombian should be rewarded on Thursday. His energy, power and constant harrying was too much for the Midjtylland defence who must be praying he is kept in storage for the return in Glasgow. But having been rested for 76 minutes against Hibs – before he blasted onto the scene with a two-goal cameo – Gerrard is sure to unleash Morelos from the off in the hope of killing the Danes’ hopes early.
Fil the bench
Big Fil Helander has been conspicuous by his absence in recent weeks and has yet to play a competitive minute since his £3million arrival from Bologna. The Swedish defender was the big money signing of the summer for Gerrard but given the form of Niko Katic and Connor Goldson not to mention George Edmundson when called upon, opportunities have been slim for Helander and it looks as if he’ll need to be patient if he’s to break into the starting XI.
Certainly it’s highly unlikely he’ll start against Midjtylland but Sunday’s Betfred Cup clash with East Fife could provide the perfect opportunity for Helander to get a taste of Scottish football. The former Bologna man hasn’t been signed to sit on the bench but Gerrard himself admits the form of his peers has made it impossible to throw him in so far. A happy headache for the boss.
Gerrard ups the tempo
Rangers may have a crucial Euro clash in just over 24 hours time but there was no taking it easy at the Hummel Training Centre. Gerrard knows the tempo needs to be high and it wasn’t just Morelos putting the bite on his team mates in a series of small sided games. They say winners train like they play and that seemed to be the ethos of today’s session. Check the gallery above for more.
Murphy in a Jam
Jamie Murphy’s Rangers career could be set to come to an end – temporarily at least. Gerrard has revealed he’s ready to send Murphy out on loan to aid his return from the season-long absence after he ruptured his ACL against Kilmarnock a year ago. Murphy has slipped down the pecking order since and will now be allowed to leave on loan just as fellow wide man Glenn Middleton has done. That hasn’t stopped the ultimate pro working his socks off in training though. The winger is plying his trade for his boyhood heroes and is determined to ensure he has a future at Ibrox. Murphy turns 30 later this month and a short spell elsewhere could be a vital step towards securing a future at Rangers.
Aribo caps a great month
Joe Aribo has enjoyed a stunning start to life at Rangers after his move from Charlton Athletic in the summer. The gangly midfielder has made the attacking midfield role his own and has chipped in with three goals from seven games. Now he’s been rewarded on the international stage too with a first ever call-up for Nigeria. It’s a further boost to the Rangers squad with a growing international contingent in the ranks. Aribo, is one of the 23 players to be named for Nigeria’s upcoming match against Ukraine at the Dnipro Arena on September 10 ahead of an African Nations Championship 2020 qualifier against Togo.