Talking points for the weekend’s Scottish football

first_imgA 39-point gap between Rangers and Celtic last season pointed to a huge gulf between the two sides. But the true extent of the task facing Pedro Caixinha was only truly laid bare to the Portuguese manager in April’s 5-1 loss at Ibrox as Brendan Rodgers’ attack exposed a fragile Rangers back line. Since then Caixinha has transformed his squad, adding 11 new faces. While the early signs have been promising, with Graham Dorrans adding quality to a beleaguered midfield and Alfredo Morelos solving a goalscoring crisis, inconsistency still plagues the Light Blues’ displays. Morelos’ goals have added potency but the focus on attack continues to stretch the back four, and the news that experienced centre-half Bruno Alves is to miss Saturday’s derby means the spotlight will shine even brighter on the defence.Nineteen-year-old Ross McCrorie, who made his Rangers debut on Tuesday against Partick Thistle, looks set to step in to replace the Portuguese international for what will be his home bow. The first Old Firm derby of the season dominates the headlines as the Scottish Premiership rolls into week seven.Celtic travel to Ibrox still undefeated, but they can expect to face a sterner test than Rangers were able to pose last campaign after a summer of upheaval in Govan.Elsewhere, Derek McInnes’ Dons return to the scene of Thursday’s crushing League Cup defeat while Neil Lennon’s Hibs look to shore up a leaky defence in the Highlands.Here we reflect on what is likely to get tongues wagging come the Monday morning coffee break. Despite the magnitude of the fixture, Caixinha has no concerns about dropping the youngster in at the deep end and insists he will go on to become one of Scotland’s finest defenders.Partnership: Both strikers are vying for a starting berth at Ibrox. SNSWith Rangers set to field a makeshift rearguard thanks to injuries to Alves and captain Lee Wallace, Brendan Rodgers may be tempted to start both Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths in attack.Such a move would likely see the Northern Irishman revert to the back three formation he has employed sporadically this campaign.Celtic dominated Hamilton playing the system but almost came unstuck in Champions League qualifying against Astana.The heavy defeat to Paris exposed frailties in Celtic’s starting 11, but club captain Scott Brown reckons the champions are a more complete outfit this time around due to their versatility.“We’re stronger, we’re fitter and we’re more together as well,” Brown said. “We’ve got a few different formations that we can chop and change throughout the game and that’s all been based on what the gaffer’s been doing in training since the start of the season and how we’ve worked together as a team.”Key to Rodgers’ selection in attack will be whether or not he feels the need to keep one of his main forwards under wraps ahead of Wednesday’s crunch Champions League clash with Anderlecht.Rangers’ Colombian forward has started the campaign in prolific form, notching eight goals in all competitions. While he has displayed a cool head in front of goal, Morelos hinted a fiery streak lies beneath when he clashed with Partick Thistle’s Jordan Turnbull.His manager Pedro Caixinha expects Celtic to test the 21-year-old’s resolve, insisting that he “knows” Brendan Rodgers’ side will try to provoke Morelos.Key to any chance of Rangers ending their rivals’ 56-match unbeaten run will be Morelos maintaining his composure, both in front of goal and in physical duels with the men in Hoops.Three up: Louis Moult adds Motherwell’s third against Aberdeen. SNSOnly three days after exiting the League Cup at the hands of Motherwell, Derek McInnes takes his side back to Lanarkshire on Premiership duty.The Dons were overwhelmed by a vibrant display from Stephen Robinson’s Steelmen on Thursday, losing 3-0 and lucky not to go down by more.McInnes altered his team’s formation in an attempt to handle their opponents’ energetic front pairing of Louis Moult and Ryan Bowman, but the Aberdeen back line looked unable to cope regardless of whether two or three centre-halves were employed.Not only did the defence toil, but McInnes’ midfield was overwhelmed by the relentless running of Andy Rose and Chris Cadden. Adding the physical presence of Greg Tansey and Kari Arnason may help present a more robust Dons 11, while going man-for-man across the pitch by pairing Adam Rooney and Stevie May would cause Well’s defenders more problems.Regardless of tactics, most importantly for the Dons will be arriving with the correct attitude or they risk watching their undefeated start to the league campaign going up in smoke. Captain Graeme Shinnie told Red TV: “Simply not good enough, from myself right throughout the team. We need to have a good look at ourselves. “The quality is always there but I think we need to fight a wee bit more, fight for each other, work as a team a wee bit more, then the quality shines through after that.” Hibs boss Neil Lennon insisted his team would sit second in the table had it not been for “sloppy moments” at the back. While performances on the whole have been good since stepping back up to the top flight, cutting out on such lapses of concentration will be key when the Leith side head north to Dingwall to take on Ross County. The Staggies boast players with the craft and ability to punish any mistakes at the back by Hibs, with young winger Davis Kellor-Dunn and experienced playmaker Michael Gardyne supplying plenty of ammunition for Craig Curran and Alex Schalk.last_img read more

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