If there’s one thing Glasgow Rangers have got to do on Thursday night, they need to come out of the blocks strong against Benfica at Ibrox in the Europa League.
Steven Gerrard’s side have started the season strongly, with 18 wins out of 21 games in total, but they can’t afford to take their foot off the gas against one of their toughest opponents in the competition. However, Rangers may have a serious problem if recent reports are to be believed.
What’s the word?
Alfredo Morelos reacted angrily after he was substituted in the second half when the Gers were cruising to victory over Aberdeen at the weekend, having returned from international duty with Colombia only a few days prior to the game.
Former Gers full-back Alan Hutton condemned his behaviour in an interview with Football Insider, saying: “Yes you can be angry and be in a huff if you don’t score but you put in a good performance and you help the team as much as you can. If it’s time for you to take a rest, that’s what happens.
“You can’t do that, it just shows all the wrong signs and then he’s sat in the stands with his face tripping him, it just doesn’t look good. So I think that’s probably the bit that annoyed Gerrard the most because he did do well, he just didn’t score on the day. It is what it is but you can’t show that kind of behaviour after, it just doesn’t look good.”
However, the Ibrox boss has publicly come out in defence of his star striker in a pre-match press conference. He said, as quoted by The Daily Record: “Alfredo is fine, we don’t want players smiling and happy when they are taking off the pitch. Alfredo is in a good place and is ready to go again tomorrow.
“It is my job to manage the players when I think the time is right.”
But it remains to be seen if Morelos will play from the start or as one of the twelve substitutes, as it certainly seems the Ibrox boss does not fully trust him at the moment.
Morelos must start against Benfica
Gerrard has already shown a ruthless streak so far this season, having dropped Morelos for the 2-0 win over Kilmarnock after he criticised his attitude in the summer. However, he cannot afford to make the same mistake this time around against the Portuguese giants.
The Colombian had been benched for the second game in a row but came off the bench in the second half to score the only goal of the game against Lech Poznan in the Europa League last month.
Scoring late winners when it matters the most is one thing, but it’s hard to deny the fact Morelos is essentially a get out of jail free card more often than not.
In three appearances in the European competition, the 24-year-old has bagged two goals and supplied one assist this season so far. By comparison, both new recruits Cedric Itten and Kemar Roofe have only managed to score one goal between them, via Transfermarkt.
Regardless of whether Gerrard wants to teach Morelos a lesson or not, if Rangers are a team that have serious ambitions of qualifying for the next level of the Europa League, perhaps it’s time for the Ibrox boss to swallow his pride and bite the bullet.
His penchant for finding the back of the net is something that should not be ignored, especially when you consider the fact that he broke Ally McCoist’s all-time European goals record with a simple tap-in against the ten-man Benfica in Lisbon last time out.
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