Rangers supporters have been in high spirits in the Transfer Tavern in the last few days after seeing their side ease past Hearts 2-0 at Ibrox in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday, thus tightening their grip on second place following Aberdeen’s defeat at home to Celtic.
Graeme Murty’s men went into their clash with the Edinburgh-based outfit off the back of a thrilling 5-3 victory over Hamilton in their previous league outing, a game which saw both the best and indeed worst of this Gers side. Yet the Light Blues put it all together at Ibrox on Saturday to produce a dominant display over Craig Levein’s Hearts, with goals from Jamie Murphy and Russell Martin sealing a deserved and comfortable victory for the Scottish giants, who moved three points clear of Derek McInnes’ Aberdeen following their 2-0 loss at leaders Celtic on Sunday.
Subsequently, there have been many delighted Rangers fans in the Tavern in recent times, several of whom are eagerly anticipating their team’s trip to St Johnstone on Tuesday night, with the Gers seeking to avenge their embarrassing 3-1 defeat at home to Tommy Wright’s men back in December.
And several of those Light Blues supporters lining up at the bar have been discussing what, if any, changes Murty should make to the starting eleven on Tuesday, and while their team produced a fine display against Hearts, some feel that centre-back David Bates should be axed for experienced defender Bruno Alves.
Ultimately, the 21-year-old did play a part in a Rangers backline which kept a fifth clean sheet in their last eight matches on Saturday, yet he hasn’t been overly convincing in the last few games, not least the 5-3 loss at Hamilton.
And he didn’t make the greatest of starts on Saturday either with Kyle Lafferty often getting the better of him, and while fellow centre-back Martin hasn’t also been at his best in recent times, his goal and overall dominant defensive display is likely to keep him in the side on Tuesday.
Yet Alves has slowly but surely been making his way back to full fitness in the last few weeks, and returned to the bench as an unused substitute against Hearts on Saturday to suggest that he is ready to return to the starting line-up.
And that could well happen on Tuesday to help Murty’s side fend off a St Johnstone team who have often produced some of their best football against the division’s top sides, having drawn twice with Celtic this term and of course beaten Rangers 3-1 in their previous meeting.
And the experience and knowhow Alves possesses in abundance could be exactly what the Gers are after on Tuesday night in a bid to quieten the McDiarmid Park crowd and indeed thwart the opposition, which could mean that Bates makes way.
So while the youngster was improved in the second half against Hearts, there remains some question marks given his unconvincing displays in the weeks prior to Saturday, and with Alves returning to full fitness, Murty could well seek to axe the 21-year-old in favour of £720,000-rated Alves (as per Transfermarkt) on Tuesday.
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