Steven Gerrard’s Rangers travel to Gibraltar to kick start their Europa League qualification campaign against St. Joseph’s tonight and it looks set to be an interesting 90 minutes.
Gerrard will be hoping to emulate last season’s feat by qualifying for the Europa League group stages but knows his side is still a long way away from that yet. Having brought in seven new faces this summer Rangers look a more complete side than they did this time last year and will be hoping this increased squad depth will mean for an improvement on last season’s second-place Premiership finish, being knocked out of the two domestic cups by Aberdeen and an agonising exit from Europe.
The first thing to keep an eye on is who starts up front for The Gers. With speculation rife that Alfredo Morelos is away and to be replaced by either Leeds’ Kemar Roofe or Champions League winner Daniel Sturridge it looks as if Jermain Defoe could be given the nod to start as Gerrard’s sole striker tonight. Defoe has been in fine form during pre-season and with the Colombian Morelos picking up a knock against Mansfield and missing out on the recent Oxford United game entirely it means it’s likely we’ll see the 36-year-old Englishman start up-front. As Morelos won’t be 100% fit it means we won’t be any closer to knowing who Gerrard’s first-choice striker will be for the coming season but it could give Defoe the platform to stake his claim to be just that.
Another thing to look out for in Gibraltar tonight is Rangers’ midfield three. Ryan Jack and Glen Kamara finished the 2018/19 season on top form yet have never had another midfielder of the same consistent standard as themselves alongside them. Scott Arfield played as part of the front three for much of the last term and will probably continue in this role to begin with so it’s probably not going to be the Canadian taking the role. It could be either Greg Docherty– who impressed on loan at League One Shrewsbury last season- or new signing Joe Aribo, who played a similar role for Lee Bowyer’s Charlton. It’ll be interesting to see who partners Jack and Kamara tonight and could give us a clue as to who Gerrard will favour going into the new season at Ibrox.
Sheyi Ojo has arrived on loan from Liverpool and will be looking to replicate the success of Ryan Kent, who made the same temporary move last season and plays in a similar area of the park to the 22-year-old. Ojo has done well in pre-season and could be set to fulfil the potential that has seen him make eight appearances for the Liverpool first-team. The 22-year-old former Fulham loanee could be the game-changer that the side lacked in the first half of last season and we might catch the odd glimpse of what he’s capable of tonight.
We should get some clues as to how Gerrard will look to play over the season tonight making it a very intriguing tie indeed.