Rangers have suffered a double blow ahead of their Europa League encounter with Spartak Moscow after Ryan Kent joined striker Kyle Lafferty on the sidelines.
On-loan Liverpool midfielder Kent has been ruled out with a hamstring injury and boss Steven Gerrard has added Scotland Under-17s striker Dapo Mebude to his squad ahead of this evening’s game in Russia.
Gerrard said: “Ryan came off against St Mirren with a hamstring issue which we are looking into at the moment. Ryan won’t be available for us over here in Moscow and at Motherwell either.
“Obviously it’s an opportunity for someone else, certainly over the next couple of games, to come in and express themselves. But there’s no getting away from it that it’s a big disappointment for myself and the team because Ryan has been in fantastic form and is a real threat for us. But I’m sure other people are chomping at the bit for an opportunity. Kyle has still got an issue in his quad muscle, so unfortunately he hasn’t made it here.”
Spartak also have their troubles, with supporter unrest hanging over the club. Under-fire caretaker manager Raul Riancho pleaded with fans to lay off his players following their angry reaction to a fourth consecutive home league defeat on Sunday and Gerrard hopes there is more discontent at the Otkritie Arena.
“We can only hope that the atmosphere is the same in the stadium because that would mean we are playing well and we’re doing our job,” said Gerrard, whose side lead the group with five points.
“But in all honesty the most important thing for me is what my players do and that we carry out the game plan that’s given to the players and we come here and really embrace it and express ourselves.
“We don’t want to play in a shell like we did in the first 45 minutes at Villarreal. We want to really start strong and really show Spartak and all their supporters our intent on the night, and that’s to come here and do everything we can to get a good result.”
Gerrard also noted Riancho’s comments that his side will be more attacking after holding Rangers to a goalless draw at Ibrox.
“Obviously I am aware of how the group stands at the moment and I don’t think a draw does Spartak any favours,” the Ibrox boss added. “So I’m aware they have to go for the win. Whether they decide to go gung-ho or have a more patient approach, we’ll have to wait and see. But for me what’s important is what Rangers do and how we approach it and we make sure we carry our game plan out.
“The players have really embraced every challenge that’s been put in front of them on the European run, whether that be home or away. We have been defensively very good, very solid and aggressive and difficult to play against whilst still carrying a threat at the other end, and it’s worked for us so far.
“But we do realise Spartak have very dangerous players, good players. I’m sure they are a little bit wounded by their own form of late, so we are respectful and realise that they might come flying out the blocks. And if that’s the case, we have to be ready for it.”