Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has explained that he didn’t start Florian Kamberi against St Johnstone in order to keep him fresh ahead of the trip to Braga, as quoted by the Glasgow Times.
The 24-year-old forward is yet to start a game for the Gers since joining on loan from Hibs on 31st January.
Yet, he showed what he was capable of at the weekend, by wreaking havoc after being introduced at half-time. He turned the game on its head with a goal and superb assist to see the Gers leading 2-1 at McDiarmid Park.
It wouldn’t prove to be enough for three points, though, with Stevie May capitalising on a defensive lapse to net an equaliser for the hosts.
Given what Kamberi showed during his 45 minutes on the pitch, questions may be raised about why he didn’t start the game. Particularly with fellow attackers Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Kent in poor form.
Yet, the manager said he was safeguarding against injury and fatigue.
“I wanted to start him on Sunday but obviously the risk of him playing a full game and not being fresh on Wednesday was one that I was juggling about with,” explained Gerrard, as quoted by the Glasgow Times. “But when we went 1-0 down I needed to twist and I did that. I thought he was absolutely outstanding.”
“On that performance, he plays, for sure. You can’t ignore that, that was some impact.
“He got Man of the Match and everyone should have been talking about Flo Kamberi.”
Clearly, the Swiss-born striker was will be starting in the absence of the suspended Alfredo Morelos in Portugal, which will be a real test of his Gers credentials.
His impact was remarkable on Sunday afternoon, and Bears may be hoping it will help Gerrard to be more adventurous in future.
The manager has shown reluctance to make alterations to his starting XI and opted for Ryan Kent ahead of Kamberi at St Johnstone despite the former failing to produce a league assist all season.
There’s probably some truth to the explanation of leaving the Hibs loanee out to ensure he was fresh for what is sure to be a big role in Portugal.
However, the player’s workload has been negligible since he arrived at Ibrox and if Gerrard had really felt he was a better option than Kent, he would have started, just like many others who featured on Sunday and will play again on Wednesday night.
For example, Scott Arfield will likely be a key man during the second leg against Braga, but he still played the full 90 in Perth in what was his eleventh outing of 2020.