'Rangers haven't had a choice' - Steven Gerrard laments situation ahead of Hearts match

After seeing off one half of Edinburgh before the international break and ending Hibs’ unbeaten league start, defending cinch Premiership champions Rangers will aim to do the same to Hearts at Ibrox and cement their place at the top of the table.

Steven Gerrard oversees a training session ahead of this afternoon's match against Hearts.

The start to the 2021/22 campaign has not been plain sailing for manager Steven Gerrard, given injuries, Covid-19 outbreaks, international duties and an early exit from the Champions League qualifiers. Nevertheless, they are already six points clear of Old Firm rivals Celtic after just eight gameweeks and have a Premier Sports Cup semi-final to look forward to next month.

There’s an argument for the international break coming at the wrong time for Rangers, who were just starting to hit their stride. Gerrard will make a last-minute call today on Kemar Roofe, the striker having an arduous journey back from Honduras after scoring against them in a memorable win for Jamaica, while others such as Ianis Hagi and Leon Balogun have been away with Romania and Nigeria.

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"It's two weeks off domestic football, and I think we all miss it, certainly we do as staff,” said Gerrard.

"What we do is we follow our international players, we try and watch as many games as we can, if we can't get the games we try and make sure we get the footage and clips, to see how they are playing first and foremost.

"And then, we obviously have a fantastic medical and sport science team that make contact with the players personally and the countries, and check how they are feeling physically, and just checking how they are. Although they are away on international duty, they are our players.

"They belong to us, so we need to make sure the duty of care is there for them as well. It is a long two weeks. As a manager, you don't know who has recovered until Friday, who can train and who is available for the next game."

Gerrard admits chopping and changing his starting XI, which he has done most weeks, has been borne out of necessity.

"From the beginning of the season until now, with some of the Covid issues and injuries, we have had to rotate anyway,” continued Gerrard.

"We haven't had a choice. In an ideal world I'm looking for this settled team, to try and get people in a rhythm, to try and get the team in a rhythm, that will help us find a level of consistency that will take us to where we want to get to. It has been a challenge to us a staff to find a settled team because we have had so many interruptions.

"I think over a course of a season I'll naturally try and offload and change, to make sure that I try to keep all our players fresh and in the best form I can.

"I think it's unrealistic to expect the whole, 11, 12 maybe 13 players to go every game. I don't think that's right, because at some stage in a season, they would all flag and hit a brick wall. That's my job, to manage loads, to manage who has played international games, and try and pick the hungriest and freshest team to get the job done on the weekend."

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