Rangers Covid drama: Gary McAllister suggests players could return to face Celtic on Sunday

Rangers assistant-manager Gary McAllister is hopeful some of the players forced to miss the Europa League trip to Armenia because of positive Covid-19 tests at the club could return to action for Sunday’s Old Firm game at Ibrox.

Rangers assistant-manager Gary McAllister pictured as the Ibrox squad departed Glasgow Airport on Wednesday afternoon for their Europa League play-off match against Alashkert in Armenia. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

McAllister is taking charge of the Scottish champions for the second leg of their play-off round tie against Alashkert in Yerevan after manager Steven Gerrard was among those unable to travel on Wednesday afternoon.

Six members of the Rangers first team squad were also absent – both first team goalkeepers, Allan McGregor and Jon McLaughlin, captain James Tavernier, left-back Calvin Bassey, attacking midfielder Scott Wright and winger Ryan Kent.

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Under current regulations, any staff member or player identified as a close contact of someone who has returned a positive Covid-19 test can cut short their self-isolation period if they have been double-vaccinated more than 14 days earlier and can pass a PCR test.

“You’ve got to be mindful of the fact that now that we’ve moved on and a lot of the people in and around our club are double vaccinated, there are advantages,” said McAllister.

“So we will be looking at that. Things will be changing as we speak. I’m sure all the medical people at our club are all over that. As we pass information to the governing bodies, we will be getting guided by them as well.

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“Things have been unfolding in the last immediate days and we are adapting as we’ve moved along. We have arrived here in Armenia now and the focus turns to the job in hand.

“We get this game out of the way and hopefully we get the right result and proceed into the group stages and we can then turn our attention to the game at the weekend. We come here fully focused on getting the job done here.”

Rangers have a 1-0 lead from the first leg of their play-off round tie against Armenian champions Alashkert as they attempt to reach the group stage of the Europa League for a fourth consecutive season.

Robby McCrorie is poised to make his debut in goal, while 19-year-old right-back Nathan Patterson is set to replace Tavernier in a starting line-up which will otherwise retain plenty of experience. Despite midfielder John Lundstram and striker Kemar Roofe also missing the trip due to suspension, McAllister is positive about Rangers’ resources for the task at hand.

“We feel we’ve got a strong squad,” he added. “We’ve got strength in depth. You know, we have been hit. Not only have we been affected by Covid issues, we’ve been affected by suspensions.

“We’ve had some niggly injuries in and around players. So the start of the season has been hampered by that. All these little things look like excuses. But these are things you have to adapt to.

“We have to utilise and use our squad. Players who are now in the team have to go and grasp the opportunity.

“Going back to being affected, most clubs have been affected. But we’ve been extremely diligent in and around our training ground.

“The fact that it’s quite a big space, the people in and around the club do everything to keep everyone safe. We just have to adapt – and take advantage of the fact that we’ve got a big squad.”

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