What Rangers need to do to close the gap on Celtic

Rangers Football Club

Domestically, Celtic are having one of their most dominant seasons ever. With just three games to go, Brendan Rodgers’ Hoops are on the verge of completing an unbeaten league campaign.

Rangers v Aberdeen - Kick-off Sep 2009

As it stands, Rangers can only look on and wonder what might have been had the club not entered liquidation in 2012, thus forcing them to apply to enter the Scottish Third Division ahead of the 2012/13 season.

Their Scottish football betting odds for winning the SPL next season currently stand at 9/1 will be vastly longer than Celtic’s, however, Rangers have come a long way since liquidation and are closing the gap in a league where even the finest of margin can make a big difference.

How do they close the gap further?

Currently sat in a comfortable third place in the Scottish Premier Division, former ‘Gers’ boss Mark Warburton (now at Nottingham Forest) has claimed it will take years before Rangers can compete with Celtic once again.

However, current man at the helm Pedro Caixinha refused to be drawn on the subject saying his players need to work hard, have belief and remain committed to the cause.

That said, there are certain things the giant need to do in order to push on and close the gap to Rodgers and Co.

Rangers, Glasgow

Find a goalscorer

Kenny Miller has been a wonderful servant to Rangers over the years but the Scotsman is now 37 and despite 88 goals over three spells with the Gers, it is time to find a replacement, especially with Miller’s contract up in the summer and with nothing on the table as of yet.

Miller is top scorer for Rangers this season but has found the back of the net just ten times in the league.

By Contrast, Celtic have four players who have scored more than ten this season with new recruit Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair, who also moved to the club last summer (following four failed bids), boasting over 20 apiece.

Stick with a manager

Warburtons resignation/dismissal (whatever you want to call it) from Rangers was a little surprising to those south of the border who witnessed him work wonders with Brentford in the Championship.

Pedro Caixinha was brought in and the jury still out on the Portuguese former Nacional head coach after back to back Old Firm defeats did little to endear him to the fans.

However, Rangers need consistency in its helmsman and Rangers need to decide quickly whether they make a commitment to Caixinha.

It is likely they will, and if that is the case then time must be given to allow him to put together a side capable of competing at the top once more.

Off-field opportunities

Financially, there is still a large gulf between Celtic and the rest of the league. However, Rangers Club Chairman Dave King is realistic about Rangers chances of catching Celtic in the short term and points to Europa League qualification and a better commercial agreement with Sports Direct as a way to significantly close the gap.

Rangers are still a big draw and Celtic do have a limit to what they can achieve (hampered by the lack of competition in Scotland) meaning Rangers will get back to the top.

We just may have to be patient.

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Rodgers to swoop for Dortmund ace after Depay disappointment

Depay

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is eyeing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a potential “marquee” signing after missing out on PSV Eindhoven winger Memphis Depay, according to reports.

Dutch international Depay has agreed a switch to Manchester United for £21.6million, and although Rodgers denied any interest in bringing the player to Anfield, Depay’s agent claimed the Reds were in the hunt for his signature.

After a season that has been disappointing compared to the previous term’s title challenge, Rodgers has called for Liverpool to sign “marquee players”, and Aubameyang would certainly fit the bill.

The 25-year-old Gabon international has impressed during Dortmund’s torrid Bundesliga campaign, and is expected to attract offers in the region of £15million from a queue of European clubs.

Aubameyang joined Dortmund in the summer of 2013, when the club was fresh from a Champions League final, and he now has two season of football in Europe’s premier competition under his belt.

But with manager Jurgen Klopp headed for the exit door at Signal Iduna Park, and the club set to finish well outside the European qualification spots in the Bundesliga, Aubameyang seems certain to be bound for pastures new.

Signing a striker is high on Rodgers’ priorities following the failure of Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli to compensate for Liverpool’s loss of Luis Suarez last summer.

With the summer transfer madness about to get under way, punters will be keen to get best free bets on the big Premier League moves, and Liverpool are very much in the spotlight as they look to rebuild during the break.

But Rodgers finds himself at a disadvantage in the race for Aubameyang, as he cannot offer the ambitious striker any Champions League football in the 2015/16 season.

Should he miss out on the Dortmund man, Rodgers may return his attention to Lyon’s prolific marksman Alexandre Lacazette, who has been frequently linked with a move to Merseyside during a dazzling season in Ligue 1.

Having scored 27 times in the league for Lyon this term, the 23-year-old is one of the hottest properties in European football.

Along with Liverpool, Manchester United are again being mentioned amongst the clubs courting the French forward, and Rodgers would be furious if he was to lose out to Old Trafford boss Louis van Gaal on yet another of his transfer targets.

Lacazette will not be easily tempted away from Lyon, where he has developed into a formidable footballer, thought to be worth in the region of £28 million.

But again, the lack of Champions League football available at Anfield next season might force Rodgers to look elsewhere – perhaps to the lower reaches of the Premier League – for new attacking options.

Burnley’s confirmed relegation from the Premier League has prompted speculation over the future of their star striker, Danny Ings, and he may well see Liverpool as a dream move after spending much of his career outside English football’s upper echelons.

But a campaign that started well for Ings and Burnley petered out in 2015, and he ended the season with just 10 goals from 35 appearances.

That’s not the sort of form that will get Liverpool fans excited, and Rodgers will be wary of serving up another flop in front of the Kop.

Steven Gerrard: Suarez can compete with Ronaldo and Messi

Suarez

Suarez

The England skipper has insisted that the Liverpool striker can become one among the best players likewise Cristiano Roanldo and Lionel Messi.

Luiz Suarez has been in a great form for Liverpool. Scoring 13 goals and 2 assists in just 10 matches , he has earned the praise around him to become one of the best in the world. The Salto born striker  scored four goals against Norwich in Wednesday’s Premier League encounter, helping his team secure an easy 5-1 win .

Steven Gerrard believes that the Uruguay international has performed out of this world in recent times and can rival Ronaldo and Messi for the best player award in the upcoming years.

The Red’s skipper said, “You have seen a world-class performance, probably one of the best individual performances I’ve seen at Anfield – and I’ve been playing here a long time. Having worked with him every single day, it’s probably less of a surprise to me as it is for the supporters. I’ve been pushing his corner for a long time that he is up there with the best in the world.

“I think he’s getting so close to the main two, Ronaldo and Messi. If he keeps going, I think he can catch them.”

Meanwhile, Brendan Rodgers also insisted that the Forward is one of the best strikers in the World, after their match against Norwich.

He said, “I always like to talk about the team but I think you’ve got to hold Luis up as one of the best strikers in the world,” he told reporters at his post-match press conference. ”It was an incredible performance. It was sheer brilliance, it was a joy for me to watch the team, I thought technically we were very good but to witness that, it was a remarkable individual performance.”

The Liverpool Manager  did not hesitate to confirm that Suarez is happy at Anfield. He added :

“He’s probably the happiest he’s been here, you look at him and the maturity in his performance. I think this club suit him perfectly and I still think his best years are going to be here because of everything. The profile of the club, the connection with the supporters, Anfield itself, you can see it’s a hand in glove fit for him and the type of football we’re trying to play allows him to operate in those spaces we create.”

England striker to face test in Ukraine

England striker, Lambert,

Ukraine

If you would have asked people last season who Rickie Lambert was, other than Southampton fans you would have found very few people who had ever heard of him.

In fact just ten years ago the Liverpool born striker was a substitute sitting on the bench for Stockport County in an uneventful match against Port Vale.

Now a decade later the 31-year-old finds himself not only playing in the Premiership but the starting striker for the England national team a fairy-tale story in the world of football.

Lambert was called up to the England team pretty much as an extra, as no one had ever considered that he would be preferred over the likes of Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge or Danny Welbeck.

When the Saints man came on against Scotland he immediately made an impact scoring the winning goal after being on the pitch for only four minutes.

“It’s more satisfying still that it was won by a fairy-tale goal from Rickie Lambert,” said Hodgson. “He’s been a breath of fresh air while with us, so happy to be part of the squad, and what a wonderful story that he crowned it with the winning goal.

“He is so enthusiastic; he has been like a young boy with a new toy ever since he joined us.

“He could have gone away with the match ball, with the shot against the post and another that had to be palmed away, but maybe he has to be happy with one goal.”

When the England manager was asked if he thought Lambert had done enough to remain in the squad Hodgeson said: “I guess so. Obviously there might be a bit more competition next time. Daniel Sturridge is hopefully back. Andy Carroll not far from fitness. We’ll see in the next three weeks, but he won’t be being struck off my list very lightly.

Before last night’s World Cup qualifier against Moldova the England manager had little choice but to make Lambert his starting striker after having lost both Wayne Rooney, and Daniel Sturridge to injury, and West Hams Andy Carroll still out.

Lambert did not disappoint the England boss with a fine performance and a goal for the “Three Lions” in an easy 4-0 win.

England now travel to Kiev’s Olympic Stadium where they will face a much tougher team in the 28th ranked Ukraine where they will be without striker Danny Welbeck who picked up a booking after being flagged for being offside, and playing on after the referee’s whistle.

Which must have along with all Hodgeson’s other woes have the England manager thinking: “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”

One thing is for sure though and that is that Ricky Lambert will be relishing his time in the spotlight looking to score the winning goal that will almost certainly guarantee England a place in next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.

Rodgers: Gerrard is my top signing this summer

Gerrard
Gerrard In these days when it seems as though players do not care about the club they play for preferring to make it all about themselves.

It is nice to know that this can never be said of Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard who grew up to play for the team he supported as a young boy.

In fact it seems inconceivable that Gerrard will ever leave Liverpool and could very well end up managing the club or certainly being an ambassador.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers thinks so highly of the boy from Bootle that he is saying that for Gerrard to sign a new contract is his signing of the summer.

The Liverpool captain put pen to paper last week singing a new contract that will keep him on Merseyside till after his 36th birthday.

The Reds are playing a testimonial for their most loyal player on Saturday against Olympiakos that will mark Gerrard’s 15th year as a Liverpool player with all proceeds from the game being given to the midfielder’s charitable foundation.

His influence here is still at such a high level – the role he’s provided for me is so important,” Rodgers said. “I told the club in the summer that our biggest signing could be Steven Gerrard, because of the influence he has on everyone. It’s about his hunger to learn and the leadership that offers.

It’s vital to have a good lieutenant and him and [Jamie Carragher] were certainly that for me last year – and he has picked up the baton again.

Rodgers then went on to say that the 33-year-old still has a lot left to give to the club, especially when it comes to the younger players.

. “I don’t see anyone like him, he’s absolutely phenomenal and still someone who is very, very important,I just see the quality in his game. He is still, for me, the best passer of a ball in the Premier League.

 You see some of them he hits from all over the field and it’s incredible, how he strikes it. Nobody can do it like him.

He’s 33 now, but I feel he could go on for a few years, he could adapt his role where he can become the playmaker. His role will be to make the team tick, get them playing. And for me there is no better player in the Premier League to do that.

Reports in the newspapers this morning are that the Liverpool captain has had a word with unsettled striker Luis Suarez urging him not to go to Arsenal but to wait until a top Spanish side wants him.

“If he was to go abroad to a Madrid or Barcelona I would totally understand it. He’s a South American. He’s good enough to play in either of those teams.

“From a family point of view, it’s where they all want to be. Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso, some of the top players I’ve played with – their dream was to play for Real or Barcelona.

“If I was him I would wait for one of those two clubs because I think he’s good enough to play for them.”

As for Gerrard he has been playing for his dream team all his life, and knows the Reds would have a better chance of Champions League football were Suarez to stay at Anfield.

 

Liverpool talking of a top four finish next season

Liverpool

Liverpool

 

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodger is very upbeat about the coming season after having arrived in one of new partner airline Garuda Indonesia’s specially painted Airbus A330-300 that has on the fuselage Liverpool’s Liver bird logo and the words “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Rodgers did some shopping early for the Reds having already signed Kolo Toure, Simon Mignolet, Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto, with the promise of more to come.

So far everything is going well with the pre-season training and the tour of Asia, but the Northern Irishman knows that a team with a name and reputation as big as Liverpool needs to be playing in the Champions League.

“The Champions League is a competition we’re fighting to get in,” Rodgers told reporters at a press conference in Jakarta.

“The great name of Liverpool as a club and the history of the club dictate that we should be in that competition. There’s no other measure for us.

“The challenge is very, very difficult because of the competitors now in England. We have to continue to fight – and I believe we can put up a great fight this year.

“It was very difficult for us last season with a new infrastructure and a new way of working and playing, but I believe this season we can put up a great fight. Let’s hope we can get back to where the club belongs.”

Last season Liverpool finished a disappointing 7th in the league, but Rodgers has said that this season the team will be in a much stronger position to compete than where they were last year.

He added: “I’ve looked at how we’ve started our pre-season and that start base and foundation is already in place.

“Last year at the club, it was really about putting together the infrastructure of the club again, looking to rebuild and put lots of facets in place that will really help us going forward. From what I have seen this summer so far, even in pre-season, I really believe there is a real stability there.

“In England, it has shown over the years that the teams that have went on and done well have had that stability. I’m very sure we can really challenge this year and the stability is important for that.”

“We really want to have a greater fight for the Champions League spots right from the very first whistle.

“That’s our prime aim and we would like to do well in the cup competitions. Our squad was a little bit thin last year, but this year we’re going into those [cup competitions] as well as the league and look to make the steps we want to make.

“The four new players have settled in really well and all looked very, very good in their first two weeks of training. I’m really happy with them.”

Liverpool will face the Indonesian national side in Jakarta of Saturdays the 20th of July before flying out to Australia where they will play the Melbourne victory on Wednesday before jetting off for their final match against Thailand in Bangkok on Sunday the 28th of July.

It is a tough road for Liverpool o get to a top four finish, but if they play as well as they finished off last season they have every chance to finish in the top four.