Michael Beale puts Celtic on backburner as Rangers boss looks to address 'biggest concern'
Michael Beale, though, can’t and won’t. Before he and his players can tuck into the pudding that is a Hampden showdown with their biggest rivals, the Rangers manager insists all his focus will be on tackling the main course that is today’s meeting with Livingston on a rare Saturday 3pm away day.
The artificial pitch will come into consideration to an extent but with eight days between today’s joust at the Tony Macaroni and the Viaplay Cup Final at Hampden, there is no need for Beale to rest or rotate too many. The Premiership trophy may be slipping from their grasp but the Rangers boss doesn’t want to be heading into a cup final on the back of a morale-sapping loss.
“I don’t want to think about the game after this game,” he insisted. “Only this game. I’m not a coach who does that. I only think about the game in front of you because you can’t pick a team for a week’s time because that doesn’t work. You want to keep the momentum.
“Whatever happens with the result this week we need to win next week either way because it’s a cup final and I will deal with that team probably on Thursday or Friday, the back end of next week. As it stands right now the midfield is my biggest concern for this weekend because that’s the area where we have a few issues.”
Rangers have been near-perfect in terms of results since Beale returned to the club but not always in performances. Celtic’s flawless consistency has made this a futile championship chase in any case but Rangers can still be better.
“We have to find a way to win,” said Beale, who played down talk of a move for Livingston goalkeeper Shamal George. “When I talk about wanting performances to be better, I’m a coach so I want the team to win 4-0 every week and the other team not to have a shot.
“The realistic side is that good performances sometimes come off a bit of struggle, when your defenders play well and you have to grind a little bit and come back from some adversity.”
Many a team has come unstuck on Livingston’s plastic pitch but for Beale it is a venue associated with happy memories. Alfredo Morelos’ late winner in March 2021 after manager Steven Gerrard had been sent to the stand paved the way for Rangers to clinch the title four days later. What does the former first-team coach remember from that evening?
“Our manager got sent off and our crazy Colombian centre-forward scored late on!” he smiled. “I thought that was the moment we’d won the league. I know at the time we were a number of points in front but that was the night I thought: “OK”.
“That obviously came true with the home game against St Mirren. I’ve had some difficult days there, too. I find the game is always really competitive, with the way they play. I’m expecting exactly the same this weekend.”
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