Michael Beale stressed the importance of arriving at their Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic in a good place.
That came after the fierce rivals were drawn together in another Hampden showdown earlier this week.
And for that, Rangers need wins. They have two league games before the Old Firm showdown in the league at Parkhead – starting with today’s tricky trip to Lanarkshire.
They face a Motherwell side with renewed confidence under Stuart Kettlewell as he continues to steer them away from relegation danger.
But – and it’s a fairly big but – the Steelmen haven’t beaten Rangers in a top flight fixture since in just over 20 years so it’s a big ask of the men in claret and amber.
If they can pull it off, though, Motherwell can start looking at a push for a top six spot.
So there is plenty at stake in this Lanarkshire lunchtime kick off and you can follow all the build up, match action and reaction right here in our LIVE blog.
Motherwell: Kelly, Johnston, McGinn, Butcher, Casey, Furlong, Goss, Slattery, Cornelius, Spittal, Van Veen
Substitutes: Oxborough, O’Donnell, Lamie, Mugabi, McKinstry, Blaney, Mandron, Tierney, Miller
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Davies, Yilmaz, Jack, Lundstram, Cantwell, Sakala, Kent, Colak
Substitutes: McLaughlin, Hagi, Souttar, Kamara, Morelos, Wright, Arfield, Devine, Tillman
It’s all about momentum
Rangers need to be going into that Old Firm derby trilogy with confidence to have any chance of beating Celtic. And they aren’t going to get that playing like this. It’s been far too pedestrian. There is only one game – a home clash against Dundee United – before the first of those three games against the champions.
Half time – 1-1
And it’s all square at the break. Motherwell will be content with that scoreline even if they surrendered that early lead. But Rangers need to show more. Much more.
Ryan Jack’s name is taken for pulling Paul McGinn’s shirt in the middle of the break. Almost half time now and it would be no surprise to see changes for the visitors, particularly up front.
Yilmaz has a pop
Ridvan Yilmaz has a crack at goal but it was comfortably saved by Liam Kelly in the end. Worth a shot although he was unlikely to beat the keeper from about 25 yards out.
All a bit slow
There’s just an overall lack of urgency from the visitors. They’re up against a team with the worst home record in the Premiership, albeit they have picked up under Stuart Kettlewell. But there needs to be more from Michael Beale’s men and it’s safe to say the Londoner is going to have to come up with yet another of those half-time team talks to try and get an improved display in the second 45 minutes. It’s becoming a familiar theme.
He hasn’t played a lot of football and, to be fair, not a lot of the Gers players are performing too well but Ridvan Yilmaz doens’t look at it. The Motherwell goal came from his side and it looks like an area the Steelmen have targeted.
Liam Kelly does well to beat away John Lundstram’s well-taken strike which appeared to take a deflection on its way through. The Scouser did well to keep it down and Kelly parried it into Fashion Sakala’s path but it came at the Zambian too quickly and he fired wide.
Composure needed from Well
The home side need to relax. It was a blow conceding that goal but losing another would be a nightmare. Getting in level at the break wouldn’t be the worst. Rangers enjoying a lot of possession but, again, without doing too much with it.
Two short of a century
James Tavernier’s scoring record for a full back is quite incredible. He needs two more goals to make it 100 goals in the light blue of Rangers.
Goal Rangers – 1-1
And the visitors level from the resulting free kick after that foul on John Lundstram. It’s skipper James Tavernier with a trademark free kick – now just two short of 100 goals for the club – as he curls the ball over the defensive wall and into the back of the net. Liam Kelly’s positioning was a bit suspect.
And it’s a second yellow in quick succession for the home side as Callum Slattery has his name taken by Walsh for scything down John Lundstram. It was a sore one for the Scouser who was caught just outside the box.
Nick Walsh reached into his pocket to produce his first yellow card of the game as Dan Casey goes right through the back of Antonio Colak. Easy decision for the whistler to caution the Irishman, a January arrival at Fir Park.
Sharp from Kelly
Liam Kelly was out swiftly to gather a cross from the right with Fashion Sakala racing through the middle.
We’re almost midway through the first half and Rangers haven’t had a single shot on target. That tells its own story.
Impressive Van Veen tally
That’s 18 goals for the season now for the Steelmen striker and when you consider their struggles for much of this season that isn’t a bad record at all. In fact, it’s one more than Antonio Colak who is playing in a team that is far more dominant in games.
The home side are sitting deep after that early opener as they defend their lead. Rangers have plenty of possession but aren’t doing much with it just now. Motherwell trying to hit on the counter.
How will the visitors react?
Well, they won’t score with the type of cross James Tavernier just delivered. He had time and space on the right but sent his ball out of play. Frustrating from the skipper.
Problems on the park – and off
The camera panned onto Stewart Robertson in the Fir Park directors box before kick off and he can’t have been happy with that display. You wonder if it’s having any impact on on-field matters. READ MORE
Goal Motherwell – 1-0
What a start for the home side and it’s that man Kevin van Veen who was talked up before the game. Max Johnston delivered a brilliant cross from the left and the Dutchman escaped Connor Goldson to fire home from close range.
Andrew Dallas at Clydesdale House had a look at it with a hint of offside but the goal stands. What a start.
And the action gets going at Fir Park with the backdrop a huge protest against the Rangers board – or specificially Ross Wilson and Stewart Robertson.
Beale – ‘a team to score goals’
Michael Beale spoke to Sky Sports ahead of kick off and wants to continue the strong league form with a line-up intent on attacking.
Stuart has come in and they’ve been in fine form. It’s a good pitch and we’re looking forward to the game. Our away form has been strong and we want to finish off this block well going into the international break.
Borna’s wife is expecting so he’s away and that’s a fantastic moment for him and his family but Ridvan has been waiting on the sidelines to come in. He’s had a frustrating few months and Ryan Jack back in the team after a little rest last week.
Our league form has been really strong, especially our away form, and we will have to be our best. Motherwell are in a good place and we respect that but we’re coming here for the three points and will look to face them head on. We’ve picked an attacking team to go and score goals.
Gers fans plan protest
Photos are circulating on showing media showing flyers on the seats of the away fans which appear to be similar to the banner at Ibrox recently with sporting director Ross Wilson and managing director Stewart Robertson’s face inside a red circle with a strike through it.
‘Well on the up
This has been a period of bright sparks for Motherwell after a tough season to date.
Their new manager has won Manager of the Month and a change in approach to a more direct style has paid dividends to their survival fight.
But this is their biggest challenge yet, although they’ve won their last two games on home soil, having won just once in Lanarkshire on league business all season prior to matches with St Mirren and Hearts.
Their term won’t be defined by this match but any points could go a long way to their survival.
Well long odds
The Lanarkshiremen are 9/1 for a victory today. It’s a sign of the gap between the sides – but is it the biggest ever between the Old Firm and the rest? READ MORE
Big day for Yilmaz
Ridvan Yilmaz will be desperate to impress asfter spending so long on the sidelines. The Turk’s Ibrox career started slowly and then he suffered the set-back of an injury at the end of October. He’ll be keen to get going.
Another welcome sight for Rangers fans is Malik Tillman who is back in the squad and on the bench at Fir Park.
Rangers line up
And there is no place for Nicolas Raskin who fails to even make the squad while Ridvan Yilmaz starts with Borna Barisic back in Croatia with his wife about to give birth.
Gers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Davies, Yilmaz, Jack, Lundstram, Cantwell, Sakala, Kent, Colak
Here’s how Stuart Kettlewell’s Steelmen line up:
Kelly, Johnston, McGinn, Butcher, Casey, Furlong, Goss, Slattery, Cornelius, Spittal, Van Veen
Beale on Hateley ‘tsunami’ pressure claim
Rangers striker legend Mark Hateley warned Michael Beale faced a ‘tsuanmi’ of pressure if he fails to get a result against Celtic in their Old Firm trilogy.
Hateley told Grosvenor Sport: “If he loses the league match on April 8, the tsunami will only get closer and closer until it comes crashing down – but that’s what being at Rangers is all about. You have to handle that pressure.”
But the Englishman wasn’t telling Beale anything he didn’t already know, as he responded in his pre-match press conference earlier this week.
Yeah, the pressure on me is to win every single game. It’s what I signed up for.
When you are having a rough day, you remember you knew all about this when you signed up for it.
The semi-final is a game we are looking forward to because we under-performed in the last one and should have won the one before that.
The games have not been a big gap in terms of quality and scoreline, which there probably was earlier in the season. We have shown we can consistently win against most teams in the league, and go on a strong run.
It is important with three big derby matches coming up in the last games of the season that we try to win more than we lose. We are all focused on that.
Jack’s the lad for Ferguson
In his latest column for Record Sport, former treble-winning Ibrox captain Barry Ferguson has heaped praise on Ryan Jack with debate over whether the midfielder should get a new contract. And Ferguson reckons the former Aberdeen man might need to have a chat with Scotland boss Steve Clarke with the 31-year-old in the squad for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Cyprus and Spain. READ MORE
Ryan Jack has got a big conversation coming up with Michael Beale as he looks to sort out his Rangers future. But perhaps he also needs to sit down and have a big talk with Steve Clarke as well.
Beale has certainly made it clear he wants to get the midfielder tied down on a new deal before it runs out in the summer. A lot of attention has been on wee Nico Raskin since his arrival and he certainly looks the part. But for me a lot of the credit for the way the team has responded to losing the Viaplay Cup Final to Celtic has to go Jacko.
How they lined up in 2002
So it was Boxing Day just over 20 years ago when a fresh-faced James McFadden scored the only goal of the game at Fir Park against Rangers. That was the last time the Steelmen won a top flight clash against the Light Blues.
Here’s how the teams lined up that day:
Motherwell: Dubourdeau, Partridge, Hammell, Corrigan, Cowan, Kinniburgh, Adams, Leitch, Pearson, McFadden, Lehmann
Rangers: Klos, Ricksen, Amoruso, Muscat, Malcolm, Moore, De Boer, Ferguson, Caniggia, Mols, Lovenkrands
Nico no go?
Michael Beale revealed Nicolas Raskin was dealing with a quad issue and missed training on Thursday, making him a doubt for the short trip to Fir Park. There has been a of talk on social media that the Belgian was at Glasgow aiport after one fan shared a snap alongside the midfielder. He has ben called up for Under-21 international duty so, if ruled out for the Motherwell clash, then it could be he’s heading off early. All will be revealed soon enough. READ MORE
It’s been well documented that the Rangers ultras group the Union Bears are at loggerheads with the Ibrox board. They were unhappy at being refused certain banners – which the club described as ‘offensive’ with anti-police messages – into the ground for last week’s Scottish Cup tie against Raith Rovers.
But that disconnect isn’t restricted to Rangers as some hardcore Motherwell fans are also staying away from today’s game over similar issues. READ MORE
Latest Gers pod
The Record Sport team sat down earlier in the week to discuss the latest events at Ibrox, including the semi-final draw as they were paired with rivals Celtic.
We Need To Talk About Kevin
Steelmen boss Stuart Kettlewell was happy to talk up Kevin van Veen’s importanc since he took over in the Fir Park hot-seat. And could the Dutchman be the man to end that 20-year top flight hoodoo against the Light Blues? READ MORE
Kevin has been fantastic. His goals and quality speak for themselves. He is a different character and personality but I can say nothing but positive things about him. He’s been really receptive to what I’ve been trying to do. He wants to be coached which shows a humble nature.
A lot of guys might feel they know it all and don’t want a manager telling them anything. But that’s not the side I see from Kevin. The players and the group know he is the type of guy that can make the difference. He did against Ross County and has on numerous occasions this season.
I have watched him in games and even playing against good defenders and good players he backs himself to do well in those games. He is a massive asset to us and we back him to continue doing that over the next 10 games or so.”
Hello and welcome ahead of what should be a cracker in Lanarkshire.
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