Rangers manager Steven Gerrard intends to persist with Nikola Katic as one of his starting centre-backs for this evening’s Europa League clash against Braga, according to Football Insider.
The Croatian was pilloried by a number of ‘Gers fans after two botched clearances led to goals for St Johnstone in the Light Blues’ 2-2 draw last Sunday, with ex-Rangers player Kris Boyd describing it as the worst performance he had seen from a defender at the club (as per Sky Sports, via Daily Record).
However, as claimed by Football Insider, Gerrard will keep faith with the 23-year-old due to his European experience and previous strong performances at this level.
Sunday’s trip to St Johnstone was not Katic’s only questionable performance in recent weeks – he got away with a blunder against Aberdeen when caught in possession by Sam Cosgrove during the 0-0 draw at Ibrox, only for the Dons striker to fluff the resulting one-on-one opportunity (as per Sky Sports).
Rangers have a better goals concession ratio in Premiership matches without the Croatian in the starting line-up (five goals in 10 games, 0.5 per game) than when he has been in the team (13 goals in 17 games, 0.76 per game), with some of the club’s supporters calling for George Edmundson to be given a start instead of the 23-year-old while Filip Helander remains absent with a foot injury.
Katic may have struggled recently but he has still been a valuable presence in Gerrard’s side during their European campaign. Along with centre-back partner Connor Goldson, he was won the most headers per game (four) in Rangers’ squad, while only Steven Davis has a better tackling average than his two per game (as per WhoScored). Indeed, he won three tackles in last week’s first leg at Ibrox, with The Scotsman‘s Joel Sked saying that he “stood up well at the end as Braga tried to increase the pressure to get a result”.
Katic has not become a bad defender overnight and, even with Rangers’ centre-back options relatively thin, Gerrard wouldn’t have started him so regularly if he didn’t feel he was up to the task.
However, the 23-year-old could do with an assured performance in Portugal this evening to win over the doubters, with even his manager indirectly calling him out after the St Johnstone debacle. If Gerrard is to show faith in Katic by keeping him in the team, it is imperative for the Croatian that he repays the manager’s faith with a strong display against Braga.
Rangers fans, what do you make of Gerrard’s apparent plan to keep faith with Katic? Comment below with your views!
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