Rangers 'aware' of Celtic resurgence as club awaits advice over returning players - but some namechecked

Rangers assistant manager Gary McAllister says the Scottish champions are ‘very much aware’ of Celtic’s resurgence under Ange Postecoglou but insists it won’t change their approach to the first Old Firm game of the season at Ibrox on Sunday.

Rangers assistant manager Gary McAllister says the Scottish champions will look to get 'on the front foot' against Celtic at Ibrox on Sunday. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Having finished 25 points behind their great rivals in the Premiership last season, Celtic have given their supporters renewed hope of a strong title challenge with their free-scoring form of recent weeks.

Rangers are still trying to regain their own optimum performance levels after a largely unconvincing start to the campaign and McAllister has stressed their focus remains very much on themselves.

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“I very rarely comment on what’s happening elsewhere,” he said. “We’re very much aware of what's happening across the city but we’re always fully concerned about what we do.

“Generally in an Old Firm, it’s about how we perform. We’ve seen Celtic score some goals recently, we are aware of their strengths. But our preparation will be the same.

“We look at analysis, we look at the games from every angle, we look at the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent. We will prepare the exact same as every other game for this game on Sunday.

“We’ll go in there and we want to get on the front foot. We are at home, in front of our own fans and if we can all come together, it will be a good game.

“We would like to see more rhythm and for us to perform better. But what I would say is that from the very onset of pre-season we’ve not been able to pick the same team two games in a row due to a lot of issues. But they are only issues that every club has had to adapt to.

“We’ve had players coming back from red zones, players coming back late from the Euros, players coming from the Copa America, players with little niggly injuries and we’ve had Covid issues.

“We want to get some rhythm and play a nice, free-flowing style of football. But up until now we’ve not been able to pick a team to get that rhythm.

“As we speak, it’s growing and we’re coming closer together. That’s the thing. No matter who’s available on Sunday it’s about that tightness and coming together. Whoever we put on the pitch on Sunday will be fully committed.”

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard missed the Europa League trip to Armenia as he self-isolated following the return of positive Covid-19 tests at the club earlier this week. Six players – Allan McGregor, Jon McLaughlin, James Tavernier, Calvin Bassey, Scott Wright and Ryan Kent – were also absent.

McAllister expects some personnel to return on Sunday, while John Lundstram and Kemar Roofe are free from suspension and recent signing Juninho Bacuna could be involved along with defender Nikola Katic and winger Brandon Barker.

“We’ve got people coming back from suspension,” he said. “Non-squad players who didn’t travel come into the reckoning as well – Bacuna, Barker and Katic. So we’re bolstered. We have a wee bit more bodies in the squad.

“On the Covid issues, we are guided by the doctors and the governing bodies. So we’ll adapt and wait, day by day, to see who is available and who’s not. That’s all we can do.”

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