On Sunday, the second of the double-headers against Aberdeen will be played at Pittodrie. The unexpected nature of the Rangers win on Wednesday night adds extra intrigue to what was already shaping up to be an interesting match.
As it’s been only a couple of days since the previous preview, we won’t look at form or the likes. There have been no injury updates at the time of writing, so you’d assume the same players are available for Rangers.
Aberdeen haven’t lost 2 league games in a row in over a year. Whilst some feel their performances haven’t been great, results have been consistent. They are deservedly second in the league, but defeat would see them lose that spot. They’ll be angry at how the game on Wednesday went, and they’ll almost certainly be a lot better.
They’ll also take solace in previous experiences this season. When Motherwell beat them 3-0 in the cup, Aberdeen reversed that into a 1-0 league win a few days later. Even with Christie suspended, they have good squad options to change things. It seemed that both Tansey and Mackay-Steven picked up injuries, so players like Stewart and Rooney will be in the frame.
It was surprising to see Aberdeen start the game as they did on Wednesday. I’d imagine they’ll return to their preferred 4-3-3 shape on Sunday. They may even just match up with a 4-4-2 of their own, as they’ll be expecting Rangers to start with the same team. Derek McInnes made a lot of tactical changes during the previous game, and for a spell they made Aberdeen more comfortable. The shape they started with is one you’d imagine they’ll not use this time.
For Rangers, whilst I expect the same sort of system, there’s an argument that changes should be made. When it looked like Aberdeen were getting a foothold in the second half, Candeias came on to change the shape and help us get control back. It’s possible that this could be the way to start the game on Sunday. It’s expected that Morelos will be available, but if the approach is to be the same, I’m not sure he’ll start the match. Regardless of what formation we look to play, it’s hard to imagine that McCrorie won’t be in midfield again, given the success of that move. With no updates of injuries, or any rumours of anything else, I predict the same team will start the game.
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In many ways Rangers will have to be even better than they were on Wednesday to win this game. The physical challenge is likely to be greater away from home, with a poisonous atmosphere from the Aberdeen fans a certainty. Our current situation means we have a squad of players who rarely string great performances together. They’re still learning how to do that over the course of a number of matches. This is the main reason we haven’t won the three games in a row that we should have this season. Players like Pena, Windass, Holt and Wilson will need to show a consistency we haven’t seen so far. We’ll be reliant on the experience of Alves and Miller again, both of whom did as much off the ball as on it in the last game. If Morelos is to be an option from the bench, he’s one that would inspire more confidence in getting a goal than any of our recent substitutes. Certainly, the Aberdeen defence wouldn’t like to see him come on once the legs are feeling a little tired.
It’s a strange dichotomy of emotions and statistics that dominate expectations for this one. Wednesday night has raised the hopes of the Rangers fans, and should have resulted in more confidence within the squad. We’ve seen, however, that Aberdeen don’t suffer many poor results this season, and that Rangers struggle to string together good performances. If you add all of that to the rumoured situation of Derek McInnes, this game holds a lot of intrigue. I believe that both teams will look to have a go at each other, that the game will be full of strong challenges and high-tempo play, and that Rangers will win an entertaining match 2-1 to confound the statistics in a similar vein to Wednesday night.
What’s your prediction for the game on Sunday? Tweet us @rangersnewsuk with your thoughts!