Sport How Rangers' weekend win over Real Madrid will influence the start of their SPFL Premiership title defence
Celtic begin talks to sign "extremely dangerous" £6.3m-rated beast, Ange needs him - opinion
Celtic have opened talks to sign French full-back Brandon Soppy from Rennes.The Hoops shipped 16 more goals than the league winners last term so Ange Postecoglou desperately needs to add to his ranks.
Steven Gerrard has given his team two days of recovery before the competitive kick-off and their domestic title defence against Livingston.
Then it will be back to reality after two weekend games in 24 hours gave Rangers fans food for thought, but victory over Real Madrid has whet the appetite for the new season.
Yes, the Spaniards were missing the absolute elite of world football that Carlo Ancelotti’s usual squad boasts, but they were still handy enough with a £45million striker, 180-plus international caps between them and a sprinkling of Champions League winners on and off the pitch.
Celtic could discover their new Edouard by signing "powerful" 22-goal "sharpshooter" - opinion
Celtic could sign another Odsonne Edouard by swooping for striker Mohamed Bayo.The Australian must have been chomping at the bit to work with such a prolific finisher but it remains to be seen whether Edouard will actually stay at Parkhead for too much longer.
First impressions from the weekend at Ibrox is confidence is high – or should that be still high? After lifting the league title last May and the unbeaten league campaign Rangers’ positivity hasn’t had cause to wane over the summer and a win over Los Blancos on the eve of the new season kick-off will only add more.
Ryan Kent’sand Rangers had John Lundstram flicking the ball beyond a 56-time capped Brazilian and three-times Champions League winner, then winning the ensuing foot-race with Marcelo.
Even before the superstars entered Edmiston Drive and their morale-boosting scalp, Rangers’ confidence was in full flow against Brighton on Saturday.
Too slow Wilson: Rangers dealt big blow with “genius” £1.3m ace, Gerrard surely gutted - opinion
Rangers have missed out on transfer target Alhassan Yusuf after it was revealed that he is set to join Royal Antwerp, which is a blow to Steven Gerrard.Rangers were linked with a move for the 20-year-old midfielder recently, with his impressive performances at IFK Goteborg in Sweden attracting the interest of sides across Europe.
Nathan Patterson was cheekily chipping the ball over opponents’ heads and in Stephen Kelly, Rangers had a 21-year-old conducting the pace and tempo against English Premier League opposition. Even Glen Kamara – against one of the many clubs he’s been linked with – was performing roulette-turns through the midfield.
Kamara featured more against Brighton than Madrid, perhaps as result of hisAdding that pirouette flair to his ball retention and showed his mettle once again after an emotionally-draining season and physically-demanding summer, that impressed on both counts.
Rangers will do well to hang onto the midfielder, but he showed all his quality.
How Fashion Sakala and Cedric Itten shone for Rangers in victory over star-shorn Real Madrid
Real Madrid rarely play in Scotland, and when they do, they usually win. © Steven Gerrard's final match practice session is over after the glamour clash with Real Madrid. Next... The 1960 and 2002 European Cup Winners at Hampden had already done so here at Ibrox on their only previous visit in 1963, and while there was no talent quite of the calibre of Ferenc Puskas or Paco Gento this time, Ryan Kent’s trickery and goals from Fashion Sakala and Cedric Itten had the home support off their seats in what will become a memorable win for Rangers.
Nathan Patterson at right-back also impressed and how Gerrard slots him for more frequent and necessary matchday exposure alongsideis an on-going dilemma and discussion for the Ibrox manager. It's now not an isolated issue either.
Steven, Stephen and Sakala
Smiling Fashion Sakala and his Real Madrid goal may have been the stand-out, but the main take-away from the combined weekend performances was Stephen Kelly – a player very much in the mould of Steven Davis, but not a new discovery.
His potential was pinpointed by Steven Gerrard early on in his Ibrox tenure. Kelly was used in friendlies during the manager's first summer, drafted in as an unknown quantity and then handed an extended contract and competitive debut against Ayr United within a matter of months – then farmed out to the same club for experience a year later.
Two performances over the weekend exude the experience picked up then, and last season at Ross County, allied with the manager’s early faith.
Composed, with an eye for a well-weighted pass and, crucially, always available, he played the Davis metronome role with all the hallmarks of the Northern Irishman 15 years his senior, whether it was against the Seagulls’ second-string in Saturday’s second half, or late on against the Spaniards – the performance was consistently the same.
Rangers set for transfer profit as defender nears exit - plus interest in winger
Rangers are set to land £1million with George Edmundson on the verge of joining Ipswich Town. © George Edmundson and Jordan Jones could both exit Rangers. (Photo by Bill Murray / SNS Group) The centre-back is in talks with the Tractor Boys ahead of a move to the League One outfit.Edmundson has fallen down the pecking order at Ibrox having broken Covid-19 regulations alongside Jordan Jones last year. In January he joined Derby County on loan, playing eight times.
Where the Lowland League B team may once have benefitted him, Kelly has far outgrown the Academy or reserve set-up and now looks more than capable of remaining with the squad as a genuine option for the foreseeable – even with the added midfield strengthening from, and potentially Nnmadi Ofoborh.
How Gerrard fits him in may be slightly easier than the the-Patterson poser too, with Davis’ advancing years and Kelly’s emergence the manager has a like-for-like replacement and can manage his midfield without too much disruption in the centre.
Rangers did manage the game-minutes and cycle the squads over the two games in 24 hours, utilising the very depths of the first-team pool – which they will need to do to compete on all fronts next season.
Domestic trophies as well as a successful league defence are on Steven Gerrard’s agenda, plus the club’s European participation is practically guaranteed through December with the dawn of the Europa Conference League should attempts at the Champions League or Europa League prove fruitless. On Sunday’s showing that seems unlikely, but while the schedule will never be as congested as two games in 24 hours against opposition of the calibre of La Liga and English Premier League, the depth of the squad was tested and gave good indications.
"It's very, very doubtful" - Exclusive: Michael Ball expects Rangers ace to exit in coming weeks
Former Rangers player Michael Ball is hopeful that Glen Kamara does stay at Rangers this summer but thinks it’s very doubtful. The 25-year-old central midfielder was an integral part of the Rangers team that won the Scottish Premiership last season, featuring on 28 occasions. After successful season, Kamara was then picked in the Finland Euro 2020 squad, where he played every minute of his nations three group matches. The midfielder has been linked with a move away from Ibrox this summer, with GiveMeSport revealing that Arsenal remain interested in signing Kamara.
More will be known once kick-off against Livingston comes on Saturday but there are options on both fronts.
Only Scott Wright maintained his place in both – another to make a case for regular involvement with his constantly attacking thoughts whenever in possession. Kelly featured heavily against Brighton, starting in an outfield squad averaging 24 years old then coming on as back-up to thewith the average age and experience of 27.
These were two separate teams with a little to spare – missing Kemar Roofe, Alfredo Morelos, Joe Aribo, Brandon Barker and George Edmundson entirely from the two games.
There’s still work to be done on the first – but, on average, three years of development and experience behind the more established squad plus the out of action players still to be considered, there is a deep pool prepared for all avenues next season.
The heavily linked Joey Veerman could add to it too, and any sales absorbed with the emergence of Kelly, Sakala and the growing confidence of Patterson, Wright and Cedric Itten.
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Rangers star set to sign with Premiership rivals, Hearts star eyes new deal, Celtic transfer blow, Glen Kamara contract boost, Old Firm chances of signing Lionel Messi - Scottish Premiership Rumour Mill .
It was an eventful and unbeaten night in Europe for the Scottish representatives.It will be hoped the drama and entertainment will continue into this weekend as the SPFL returns for the second matchday..