Steven Gerrard will likely be rueing his handling of Rangers star Borna Barisic, ahead of the League Cup final against Celtic.
The Gers boss says he’s unable to guarantee the Croatian international will be fit for the showpiece event, due to a foot injury.
“Barisic is a doubt for Sunday – he was limping about yesterday,” said Gerrard, as quoted by the Daily Record. “He has been receiving treatment today but at the moment he is a doubt.”
“He’s had three or four kicks on his foot and has bone bruising there.”
What must currently be nagging the manager, is that this situation was entirely avoidable.
Ahead of last weekend’s game against Hearts at Ibrox, we suggested that it was time to give Barisic a rest. The 27-year-old had started the previous 15 Gers matches and had also played three full games for his country over that period.
With Jon Flanagan back fit, there was an opportunity to take him out of the firing line to replace him with a player in need of game time.
Given it was a home match against a managerless opposition in dire form, there could scarcely have been a better opportunity to give one of his star players a well-deserved rest, without putting three points at risk.
Yet, Barisic was selected and played the full 90 minutes against an overly physical Hearts team, turning what sounded like an underlying niggle into a genuine injury concern in the process.
The result was that he missed a much more difficult assignment at Pittodrie on Wednesday evening. Flanagan was therefore thrust into the action from the start, having not played a single minute for the first team for over three months.
The Scouser was perhaps understandably shaky and made a bad error for the second goal.
Had it been Barisic on the end of that overhit Aberdeen cross, it’s highly unlikely the same mistake would have been made.
Now, we face the prospect of a confidence-shy Flanagan at left-back for Hampden.
Is Gerrard to blame for the exact incident that saw Barisic pick up his injury? No.
Yet, he is guilty of misjudging this situation and over-stretching one of his biggest assets.
After several months without a break, wear and tear or niggles are bound to become an increasingly big factor for any player. Including Borna against Hearts was an unnecessary risk which could result in the Gers missing a key man and by extension, lacking balance in their starting XI for one of the biggest fixtures in recent memory.