Oxford United travel to Ibrox tomorrow to face Steven Gerrard’s side in what is an important last friendly before Rangers go to Gibraltar to face St. Joseph’s in the first round of Europa League qualification.
The game will be played with a backdrop of Rangers’ fans anger at the bringing forward of the St. Joseph’s game to just 72 hours after the Oxford friendly game is due to finish. Fans would’ve expected a strong team for tomorrow’s game but with an important European game so soon after it’s likely that the players on the pitch will rotate regularly throughout the friendly.
The first thing to keep an eye on during the game tomorrow is the rotation. In a game that should’ve been an early indicator to Gerrard’s strongest available side it now looks like we’ll still be playing the guessing game going into the St. Joseph’s tie as to what the former Liverpool captain’s strongest team is. Gerrard does have the capability to rotate his side with seven new signings coming in making the squad fairly big as things stand and we’ll hopefully get to see some of the youngsters who impressed on their pre-season trip away in Portugal.
The fact that rotation is likely makes the game far less helpful than it could’ve been for all involved but we might see Rangers’ first choice midfield out on the pitch together at some point. Ryan Jack and Glen Kamara’s partnership in the second half of the season saw the club end the season in terrific form and means they’ve probably got two of Gerrard’s midfield slots nailed down but it remains to be seen who will take the third, more-attacking role in Gerrard’s preferred 4-3-3 formation. Greg Docherty impressed on loan at Shrewsbury last season, Joe Aribo arrives from Charlton with much expected and Scott Arfield played in the position a lot last year giving Gerrard a headache as to who partners Jack and Kamara. It should be an indicator who starts on Tuesday if we see one of them play with Kamara and Jack for any amount of time tomorrow.
The final thing to look out for at Ibrox is who starts up front for The Gers. With Jermain Defoe scoring against TNS in the last pre-season friendly and Alfredo Morelos carrying a knock from the Mansfield friendly it looks as if the 36-year-old is in pole position for a starting berth on Tuesday. As well as seeing which senior striker gets the nod we might get to witness young Zak Rudden get a run-out and it’ll be interesting to see how he impacts on the game after a successful loan spell at Falkirk last season.
The shambolic last-minute rearrangement from UEFA of the Europa League tie with St. Joseph’s means the game might not be as intriguing as it once was but there are definitely things to be learnt from the friendly.