Alfredo Morelos was an impotent spectator when Rangers’ first shot at domestic silverware this season was ended by Aberdeen at Hampden last October.
The Colombian striker has been challenged by his manager Steven Gerrard to use the memory of that League Cup semi-final defeat as motivation to ensure he emerges victorious and also free of suspension from tonight’s Scottish Cup quarter-final replay against the Dons at Ibrox.
With a semi-final against Celtic on the line, Morelos is a booking away from earning a ban which would rule him out of that tie should Rangers progress.
It could be a repeat of the scenario which saw him pick up two cheap yellow cards in League Cup wins against Kilmarnock and Ayr United, forcing him out of the semi-final which Aberdeen won 1-0 against a Rangers side who laboured in attack without their top scorer.
Morelos has been booked 16 times this season and been sent off four times. Three of the red cards came in games against Aberdeen, alth-ough one was rescinded.
Gerrard insists he won’t ask the 28-goal front man to temper his approach to what is likely to be another physical contest this evening. But Gerrard believes Morelos is fully aware of his responsibilities as Rangers look to maintain their hopes of lifting the Scottish Cup for the first time in ten years.
“I think what happened in the League Cup will be in Alfredo’s mind,” said Gerrard. “There was no one more frustrated in the last semi-final than Alfredo as he was sitting in the stand – not being able to help his team-mates and the club he loves.
“He loves the supporters here and that’s got to be in his thinking on Tuesday. What do the fans want to see from Alfredo’s performance? They want to see the best individual performance on the pitch, they want him to score, to be the matchwinner.
“But they also, come the final whistle, want to be in a semi-final with Alfredo available. That’s what the fans want and that’s what Alfredo will want to deliver.
“We won’t tell him to hold it back. He just needs to focus on the football and not get involved in any other stuff. He just needs to play fair and try and bring his ‘A’ game on to the pitch. That’s all he needs to do.
“We won’t be asking or telling him to take anything away from his game. We want Alfredo on maximum. But he needs to be professional and disciplined and he’s capable of that. He’s done it before.
“I’m sure people will be wanting to get into his ribs and wind him up. We get that. But hopefully the officials are aware of that and give him a fair crack. That’s all we ask for.
“Of course I accept that [defenders winding him up]. That’s football and that’s rivalry. You can’t take one-on-one duels away from the game. That’s why we all love big games and big rivalries whether it’s in this league or any other one.
“It’s very important that Alfredo just concentrates on the game. We have to think about what’s right in front of us – not what could happen in the future.
“There’s no point in us worrying about stuff further down the line in terms of possible suspensions. I have to pick the best team that’s capable of getting the job done. Obviously Alfredo falls into that.
“Of course I’ll speak with him. I always do. We speak to the players individually and as a group all the time about the importance of discipline. It’s down to Alfredo to show that he’s capable of going out and performing as well as he has been of late and keep his nose clean.”
Gerrard, who declined to comment on speculation linking Rangers with a summer move for Aberdeen captain Graeme Shinnie, is prepared for another feisty contest with Derek McInnes’ men but is hopeful his team can find a way to play to their technical strengths.
“At times it will be a battle, we have to accept that,” added Gerrard. “We are going to have to compete, be brave and stand up to Aberdeen because they are a very effective team, a strong team. We have to accept the fact there will be pockets of the game that will be a fight.
“But we have to still stay true to what we believe in and how we want it to look, which is to play football, get the ball down on the floor and try and play and create opportunities. Hopefully we will be a bit better in our execution of that because,if we are not, then there is a possibility we could be talking about a setback again.
“We have had some good tough games against Aberdeen. Some have gone in their favour, some have gone in ours. This a new a challenge, a new game and it is a fantastic opportunity for us to show we are good enough to go into another semi-final. It is two teams desperate to move forward in the competition and I am sure it will be a good game.”