New look Rangers to hit the ground running
Steven Gerrard’s Rangers kick off their 2020/21 Scottish Premiership season with a tricky trip to last term’s fourth place Aberdeen. A trip to Portugal beckons for the Gers after this encounter, the second leg of their Europa League last 16 tie with Bayer Leverkusen, aiming to recover a 3-1 disadvantage relying on the magic of away goals. Leverkusen not being able to host the second leg at the BayArena may give Rangers a boost however they still have a mountain to climb, looking likely to be without talisman striker Alfredo Morelos who is surrounded by transfer speculation. Rangers are strong favourites for this encounter, Aberdeen have regressed in recent years from their title challenging years in Rangers’ absence.
In the minefield this transfer window is set to be in the post-COVID environment, the Dandies have acquired the services of experienced Irish wide midfielder Jonny Hayes. The 33-year-old signed on a free transfer from Celtic, it will be his second spell at the club having already made 207 appearances for Saturday’s hosts. Being directly involved in 100 goals in that time, a bit part player last season for the champions, Hayes will be ready to hit the ground running back in the red of Aberdeen.
Rangers have a great squad and have added to that in recent months. Jon McLaughlin signed from Sunderland to give some competition to first choice goalkeeper Allan McGregor and Leon Balogun joined from Wigan Athletic on a free to strengthen the backline. The Nigeria international had very limited opportunities at Premier League Brighton and Hove Albion but was instrumental for Wigan joining in January initially on loan, now at 32 he is a good addition, possibly deployed alongside another former Seagull Connor Goldson at the heart of defence.
Former Premier League goal machine Jermain Defoe’s loan from Bournemouth has been made permanent, the 37-year-old has still got the knowhow and quality to be a force in the Scottish Premiership, scoring 13 league goals last term, second in the charts only beaten by Celtic’s Osdonne Edouard. In a team of fresh-faced attacking players like Ryan Kent, Ianis Hagi and Joe Aribo, Defoe is a great person to have on and off the pitch.
It is a long time since Aberdeen have played competitively whereas Rangers have the Europa League to prepare for and have played four friendlies against strong opposition in the last couple of months. It is a mismatch on paper and Gerrard will want to start as they mean to go on.
The gulf in on pitch quality is clear to see and the Dandies have not played a competitive match since March. Make sure you get on side with the Gers.