Rangers have been given a boost ahead of tonight’s Premiership encounter with the news that James Tavernier is available for selection – although it may present manager Steven Gerrard with a selection dilemma to consider.
As noted by The Scottish Sun, the ‘Gers captain is in line to return to action for the match against Hibernian at Ibrox after a recent spell on the sidelines due to surgery on his appendix. Greg Stewart also comes back into contention for the Light Blues but Jermain Defoe, Ryan Jack and Filip Helander are all ruled out through injury, while deadline day loan signing Florian Kamberi is ineligible to face his parent club.
Tavernier’s return to the fold means that Gerrard can again call upon one of the stalwarts of his squad. Even though the captain hasn’t featured in any of Rangers’ five matches since the winter break, he is still their third most-used player of the season, having played for 3,150 minutes so far in 2019/20. Prior to his appendix surgery, the 28-year-old hadn’t missed a single minute of Premiership football in the current campaign, while his assists tally of 12 is the second highest in the squad after Borna Barisic.
His enforced absence saw the ‘Gers boss utilise several right-back alternatives. Academy prospect Nathan Patterson made his senior debut against Stranraer in the Scottish Cup, with Jon Flanagan getting the nod against St Mirren and Hearts. However, the ex-Liverpool man was whipped off at half-time at Tynecastle to be replaced by Matt Polster, who has started in the right-back role in the subsequent matches against Ross County and Aberdeen.
The 26-year-old American had made only four appearances all season prior to the winter break and had been expecting to go out on loan in January (as per PA Sport reporter Andy Newport, via @AndyNewportPA). However, his displays against Hearts and Ross County drew praise from a lot of Rangers fans on social media, while Ibrox Noise also published a positive assessment of his performance against Aberdeen, saying that “his all-round balance meant Rangers were solid on the right”.
It would seem harsh on Polster to drop out of the team given how well he has deputised for Tavernier but Gerrard will probably restore his captain to the line-up, especially with his experience (232 Ibrox appearances) and creativity (71 assists for the club) likely to be sought after Rangers slipped up in two of their last three games.
One way that the manager could accommodate both players is to keep Polster at right-back and play Tavernier on the right-hand side of midfield, with the 28-year-old having done so 13 times during his career. However, with the ‘Gers needing to return to winning ways after falling seven points behind league leaders Celtic, it seems likeliest that Gerrard won’t indulge in too much experimentation and will bring Tavernier back into the team, with Polster fulfilling the role of capable deputy.
Rangers fans, do you expect Tavernier to come into the starting line-up against Hibernian tonight? Do you think Gerrard might tweak things to include both him and Polster in the side? Join in the discussion by commenting below!
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