Saturday sees Rangers face a huge game at Ibrox, quite possibly it could be argued that it’s this season’s biggest so far, when they take on Hearts at Ibrox.
With Celtic and Aberdeen both playing each other on Sunday, the magnitude of the game takes on a whole new importance, Rangers have a great opportunity to narrow the gap at the top of the table, in turn extorting some pressure and building momentum before the Old firm Clash in a few weeks’ time.
Here are the 5 storylines to follow on Saturday.
1-HOW MANY FOR JOSH WINDASS?
The turnaround in Josh Windass’s form since the start of this season has been remarkable. He has now added goals to his game.
His timing of runs and link up play with Morelos has been a joy to watch at times, credit must be given to both the player and the coaching staff for this development. His ability was never in question, however it was doubted by many, including myself if he would be able to perform it on a consistent basis.
Last Sunday, Windass correctly predicted in a WhatsApp text to a teammate he would get a hat-trick, I’ll settle for him grabbing a double this weekend.
He has quickly become one of Rangers’ most important players, rightly being rewarded with an improved and extended contract.
MORE RANGERS STORIES
Josh has let his football do the talking on the pitch in recent weeks, showing us all the potential that was only visable in flashes before. Long may it continue.
2-A SLEEPING BAG FOR MARTIN
It seems the only possible way Russel Martin can avoid having a penalty being given against him is to play in a sleeping bag, luckily for him I have a spare one he is free to borrow this Saturday.
The two penalty descions that have gone against him in recent weeks have been nothing short of a joke. The rule clearly states your hands or arms must not be in a unnatural position.
On both occasions the ball had travelled a very short distance with a large degree of velocity, how is he supposed to avoid contact from such close proximity?
Maybe he could also try playing with his hands tied behind his back, if he feels the sleeping bag suggestion is impractical.
3-TIGHTER AT THE BACK
Sunday’s game with Hamilton may have been a goal fest, one that at times seemed very much like a training or pre-season fixture, however defending of the same level on Saturday may result in worse consequences than just a few goals against.
Hearts will without question prove to be not only more formidable but better in both the attacking and defensive phases of the game.
Craig Levein is a manager renowned for being as organised as he is boring, giving away the kind of cheap goals we have in recent weeks is a trend that must be stopped if we are to have any aspirations of taking maximum points.
4-THE RETURN OF NAISMITH & LAFFERTY
Naismith and Lafferty will both return to Ibrox, wearing the maroon of Hearts this time, rest assured both will be raising there games to make sure they are noticed.
It was no secret that Steven Naismith favoured a return to Ibrox in the last two transfer windows, with the Ibrox hierarchy opting to go in a more progressive direction.
Both players will be eager to showcase the undoubted talent they still have in front of a sell-out crowd that once adored, but now loathes them.
The previous meeting between the sides at Murrayfield taught us that caution and particular attention must also be given to set pieces.
The very mention of the referee’s name for Saturday’s clash should send chills down the spine of the home support.
If previous encounters are anything to go by we can fully expect the Rangers players to be struck down, rugby tackled or placed into a sleeper hold with no action being taken for the opposition side.
The overall standard of refereeing in Scotland is of below an acceptable level, quite simply week after week, team after team they get the big decisions wrong. This is not an issue exclusive to Rangers, though with the number of high profile matches we play in it is glaring.
The officials are not made to explain any decision they make and punishment simply involves being sent to a lower division, so more, but less in terms of numbers, hard paying supporters can witness their incompetence.
I don’t expect a solution anytime soon, better training, more accountability and full-time officials should be the bare minimum that is expected.
6-WILL WE STRENGTHEN THE MIDFIELD?
I know it’s 5 storylines to follow, I am in a generous mood so here’s a sixth.
In a few big games this season Rangers have been outnumbered in the middle of the park, I fully expect Levein to crowd the middle and attempt to win the game there.
With Jason Holt returning from suspension Murty might favour the diamond or extra man in there in order to provide cover.
Rangers 2 Hearts 1
Let me know your views as always.