More injury updates for Rangers ahead of Sunday’s Old Firm clash are a bit of a double edged sword…
I just knew it. We talked earlier in the week about being wary over early celebrations on Celtic’s injury woes, because a week is a very long time in football. Don’t want to taunt the football gods and incur their karmic wrath. I don’t normally subscribe to such supersticious notions but the Old Firm is a completely different kettle of fish and it’s never been more important not to come out of it having dropped points.
So you see, we don’t gloat over Celtic’s misfortune. Four first team players out with COVID-19 may be adventageous for Rangers, and deliciously ironic given the disease was the excuse to award them their undeserved Title gift, but it’s not a true equalising factor – it can happen to anyone, heaven forbid.
Yet here we are, reports are coming in that Allan McGregor could potentially miss the game this Sunday. No further details have been provided, in absense of Steven Gerrard’s pre-match press conference, but one would assume self-isolation could well be the likely candidate.
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Now, of course, this isn’t the end of the world. Jon McLaughlin, as we’ve discussed at length before, stepped up from the start of the season in McGregor’s place and set the record for 7 consecutive clean sheet games in his first 8. That all ended when he shipped two goals at Hibs, arguably the biggest game Rangers encountered until then, but one could suggest that he was to blame for neither of them.
McGregor has been in absolutely scintillating form since returning, and he’d need to be to dethrone McLaughlin on pure merit alone, but the latter is more than capable of doing the job. I’ve seen some chatter from Bears panicking over this, it’s such a big stage after all, but I feel that’s a touch unfounded if not outright unfair.
You can only beat who you play, it’s not McLaughlin’s fault the opposition he shut out aren’t on the Hoops’ level. We don’t know how he will perform, and that adds an element of uncertainty yes, but this Rangers side have looked absolutely formidable and I can assure you our neighbours in green have been panicking just as much if not more.
In fact, there’s a little more light at the end of the tunnel, which we are whispering quietly down here for aforementioned karma reasons – Borna Barisic may well be actually fit to play. Croatia national boss Zlatko Dalic had the following to say, as quoted by the Daily Record;
"“Barisic is fine now, we didn’t want to take any risks with him, he skipped those two games, but now he is completely ready and will be ready for the French.”"
Yes, yes and yes. We speculated on Borna being left out for two consecutive international matches, following his limping off for Rangers, that this could be bad news for the Old Firm. If Barisic is fit and able to play, as much as I’m sure Calvin Bassey could do a job for us, that’s a huge lift for the Light Blues. Borna has arguably been one of our best players this season and, if it’s a toss-up between him and McGregor to miss the game, I’d pick the latter.
Regardless, it’s all speculation at this point and much could happen between now and Sunday. We really want to wait for Gerrard’s final word before making any rush to judgement. That said, I think it’s safe to assume that any injury fears are either expected, in the case of say Joe Aribo, or manageable like with McGregor.
This will undoubtedly be one of the two most important Old Firm games in donkeys ages. The gap at the top is small and this reflects the gap between the sides. Every point will count and there’s a big, and this is not to be underestimated, psychological factor at play here too. A loss can see the heads go down early, spiralling results and another difficult campaign. Let’s hope, quietly, that Rangers can take them on at near full strength and give them the battering they so richly deserve. For that, I’m more than happy to be cautiously superstitious.