RUNNING laps from a hotel car park is not an ideal preparation for a Champions League game.
But Rangers may have no choice but to record Alfredo Morelos against MalmÃ¶ on Tuesday.
The Colombian will be out of quarantine at his airport hotel by the time the Swedes arrive in Glasgow.
If Kemar Roofe was not banned, Steven Gerrard would likely be more willing to facilitate Morelos’ return.
Still, with the Rangers down 2-1, I’d be stunned if their European talisman didn’t play any part against the Swedes.
Steven Davis’ goal in added time in MalmÃ¶ calmed the situation a bit. It was huge.
At 2-0, the Rangers would have chased him. Now they know they only need a 1-0 win to get extra time.
Morelos was at the Copa America with Colombia, on vacation, then spent time in quarantine at the hotel.
No one knows in what form he is. Is he ready to start? Could it last 90 minutes?
On top of that, there are new speculations about his long-term future as Porto waits behind the scenes.
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There is so much going on around Morelos, but Gerrard will need him for this important second leg.
Cedric Itten has had a lot of hype during the preseason but he doesn’t have the same influence on the team.
Sakala fashion is promising but it is very early in his career with the Rangers.
With Roofe absent, Gerrard will need Morelos – even if only for a 30-minute appearance off the bench.
The forward’s involvement is one of the many questions the Rangers manager needs to think about before Tuesday.
There are reasons they lost in MalmÃ¶. The Swedes had 13 games in their season and were livelier and fitter.
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Some of the Rangers players weren’t up to it.
Then you have the crazy three minutes when Gerrard’s defense collapsed to let MalmÃ¶ take a 2-0 lead.
With Roofe, Morelos, Glen Kamara, Ianis Hagi and Joe Aribo missing, the Rangers were up against it.
These are no excuses for the Rangers. These are just reasons why the game went the way it did.
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Davis’ goal with the last ball kick changes the complexion of the tie.
It could make all the difference on two legs.
MalmÃ¶ would have won a 2-1 victory before, but admitting so late was a psychological blow. They would have felt so good about themselves at 2-0, then came the bitter pill.
But Rangers shouldn’t take anything for granted against the Swedish champions.
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They are a decent side and they are in good shape. They crushed the Rangers in MalmÃ¶ and will try to do the same in Ibrox.
Slavia Prague had some joy in the Europa League draw last season with this kind of approach, so it won’t be easy.
Still, I didn’t get the impression that Gerrard was complacent in the aftermath of MalmÃ¶’s loss.
He was right to point out how important Davis’ goal could be, but you could tell he wasn’t happy.
The Rangers boss said six or seven players had to “raise their level sharply.”
His team haven’t often been second best in Europe and that will be a concern for Gerrard.
Big games come early, but you have to find a way to win those games against strong opposition.
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You should also achieve European results while maintaining your national form.
Tannadice at lunchtime is not an easy date for Rangers after Sweden’s demands. Dundee United have had a week off to prepare for the game and will try to make it count.
Gerrard has a dilemma with his selection. The players need games, but he’ll want his best team for Tuesday.
I can’t see big changes, nor can I see him asking some key men to play three times in six days.
Gerrard will have to find a happy medium that strikes the right balance between fitness and freshness.
This also applies to Morelos – but with millions of the Champions League at stake, Rangers need him.
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