'No chance' - Rangers won't prioritise Europa League or Scottish Cup and can succeed without Alfredo Morelos, Giovanni van Bronckhorst insists
The Scottish champions have endured a disheartening few days with Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Celtic followed by confirmation that their top scorer Morelos will be missing for the rest of the campaign after underdoing surgery on a thigh injury he suffered while on international duty with Colombia.
With the Old Firm loss leaving Rangers six points behind their great rivals at the top of the Premiership table with just six rounds of fixtures remaining, van Bronckhorst’s best prospects of success would now appear to lie in the Europa League, where they face Braga in the first leg of their quarter-final on Thursday night, and the Scottish Cup in which they face Celtic again in the semi-final on April 17.
But while van Bronckhorst made no attempt to downplay the significance of losing Morelos, he abruptly dismissed the notion of fielding fringe players in the rest of Rangers’ Premiership matches in order to maximise the availability of his key men for the Europa League and Scottish Cup.
“No," he said. “We just go out in every game and try to win it with the best possible and strongest team we have.
“We are still in all three competitions. Of course the league is going to be more difficult now but we have to keep going.
“There is no chance I will play with a weakened team (at St Mirren) on Sunday. The focus now is on Braga and then we switch to St Mirren.
“Of course it’s a big blow (to lose Morelos) because he’s our striker and we don’t have him any more for this season.
“We are disappointed but we know what the problem is. He’s out and we have to move on. That’s the only thing we have to do now.
“I believe we have (the players to succeed without Morelos). As I said before, we are disappointed about the loss of Morelos but out of the (first) five questions (in today’s media conference), four have included Morelos so that means he’s a very important player.
“But the reality is he’s not there and we have to prepare for this game without him. That’s what we have done the last few days and what we are focusing on for tomorrow as well.”
Morelos has been a talismanic figure for Rangers in the Europa League over the past four seasons and is the club’s all-time leading scorer in European football with 29 goals. The 25-year-old brings a dynamic to Rangers’ play which none of their other forwards can replicate but van Bronckhorst remains calm about finding the right strategy for Thursday night’s test in Portugal.
“We prepare for this game the way we prepare for every game,” he added. “We see the opponent, their strengths and weaknesses and then see which players we can use.
“Obviously we don’t have Morelos, we don’t have (Ianis) Hagi and we don’t have (Alex) Lowry who is also not available. We pick a game plan and try to execute it as good as possible."
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