Clawing back the three-point advantage that weekend visitors Celtic hold over them in the title race can hardly be presented as daunting. But the situation would nudge towards those realms were their bitter rivals to depart Ibrox even with that lead simply intact. In the six rounds of matches that will close out a compelling cinch Premiership, Celtic are certain to face four home encounters as Rangers must negotiate four away - including a trip to a Parkhead, where they were beaten 3-0 in February. In short, Sunday’s meeting of Scotland’s big two is one in which van Bronckhorst’s men must post a big win.
As a result, the Dutchman must be willing to take a couple of gambles in his team selection as he wrestles with a number of issues. Chief among these is deciding whether to give Aaron Ramsey his head and build his side around the Welsh captain. On balance, he probably should. As an elite performer, the 31-year-old was brought to Rangers on loan from Juventus in January to make a decisive impact. The Ibrox club require him to deliver on that objective this weekend. Ramsey’s fitness will always be a concern but his sharpness will have improved through starting in the win away to Dundee a fortnight ago, before playing a crucial role over the full 90 minutes in his country’s 2-1 World Cup play-off semi-final win against Austria last Thursday.
It would seem likely that van Bronckhorst will set out his side in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Ramsey fits for the central figure in the three. It is a major blow Alfredo Morelos won’t be in front of him as the central striker. Pictures on Thursday of the Colombian striker on crutches as he returned to Glasgow from international duty cut short by injury seem to rule him out. In his stead, Kemar Roofe appears the only credible alternative. Although the Jamaican international’s last league start may have come at Celtic Park unless van Bronckhorst delivers a huge curveball it is difficult to see where else he turns. Fashion Sakala tends to be deployed more in wide areas, while he was reported to have tested positive for Covid-19 at the start of the international break.
Ryan Kent is a shoe-in for left wing in the three behind the Jamican international and Joe Aribo, despite his recent form struggles, should be given the nod wide right. Rangers will look for assurance from deep-lying midfielders Ryan Jack and John Lundstrum, the form of the pair instrumental in the club’s progress to the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
The last eight tie with Braga that will see Rangers travel to Portugal for Thursday’s first leg, could come into the Rangers manager’s thinking for his one backline question. Felip Helander isn’t in his European squad, and is more of a defender’s defender than the other possible Leon Balogun, and so should get the nod over the Nigerian international. With captain and creative fulcrum James Tavernier in his usual right-back berth, Connor Goldson likewise in the heart of defence, Calvin Bassey should complete the four at left-back in front of Allan McGregor.