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Rangers boss Steven Gerrard says young guns are ready to fire if Tavernier and Barisic start to run out of ammunition

© Ian MacNicol - Getty / PoolJames Tavernier and Borna Barisic have been outstanding in Rangers’ impressive start to the season
James Tavernier and Borna Barisic have been outstanding in Rangers’ impressive start to the season

Rangers’ flying full-backs are being inspired by two young guns waiting in the wings.

Skipper James Tavernier and Croatia internationalist Borna Barisic have been in outstanding form.

Barisic came up with an outstanding cross for Alfredo Morelos to score the goal that beat Lech Poznan in midweek.

Tavernier is the club’s top league scorer with five goals, and has also contributed five assists.

The Englishman has hit the net 55 times and set up 80 for others since he moved to Scotland from Wigan Athletic in 2015.

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard is delighted with the pair – but stresses that even their places are not guaranteed.

That, he believes, is the secret of his team’s unbeaten start to the season.

He said: “Borna is in the right place from a mental point of view.

“He’s capable of a performance that he gave on Thursday night, which is high level.

“That’s the reason why he’s named and picked as the best left-back in Croatia.

“When he gets into the final third, he’s got incredible quality. His delivery is exceptional.

“His numbers for a full-back alongside James are really, really admirable for that position.

“He has started the season really strongly.

“It’s interesting to watch Borna and James because they’ve now got big competition for places.

“I wouldn’t think twice about putting Nathan Patterson in to start a game the way he’s looking in training.

“Calvin Bassey has already proved that he’s capable of stepping in at left-back as well.

“Both James and Borna know they have a challenge for their positions, which is good for us.”

Morelos lost his place in the starting line-up for last Sunday’s league game against Livingston, and Thursday’s Europa League game against Lech Poznan.

He came off the bench to head the winner against the Poles, and looked like he’d benefited from the rest.

Jermaine Defoe had the main striking role against Livi, and Kemar Roofe took over the role in midweek.

Gerrard explained why he rotated his forwards, and the way it benefited Morelos.

“Having fit and healthy forwards in good form certainly helps to win football matches,’ he said.

“But you’ve also got to keep the rest of your squad in a good place.

“It’s important we try to keep everyone fresh and hungry.

“It’s my job – when I see players having a bit of a dip or if they look tired – to try to freshen them up, and take them out of the firing line.

“We felt that Alfredo needed that. He’d played a lot of football, and he’s been away travelling to Colombia.

“He has recently had his family move back over. He had a lot going on.

“He was also involved in a lot of speculation around his future.

“We felt it was the right time to take him out of the eleven for a couple of games to freshen him up, and hopefully it will help him.

“It did on Thursday night, but now we need him to build on that 30 minutes and try to get him back to his best form because that will be a huge help for us in the team.”

It’s back to domestic business this afternoon as Rangers take on Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

Gerrard admits playing regularly on Sundays and Thursdays has both risks and benefits when it comes to maintaining a successful run of results.

He said: “The schedule is a huge challenge. I’m not the first manager that will say that.

“But if you’re in a good place and winning, then it breeds confidence and belief.

“It can help you to roll into games very quickly.

“We’re not getting much time on the training pitch, so we have to do more off the pitch – in the auditorium or classroom – in terms of preparation.

“The players are happy, smiling and bouncing into work.

“We’ve got good options, and people really chomping at the bit to play game time.

“This will be a big challenge today because we had to put a lot in on Thursday night.

“It was a heavy pitch, so that will come into my thinking when I’m picking the team.”

Rangers have found Kilmarnock difficult to beat on their plastic pitch over the last few years.

Gerrard said: “At times, we’ve been disappointed and come away from there frustrated.

“The way we’ve actually played, we’ve felt we deserved more.

“I wouldn’t say they’ve stolen points off us, but they’ve managed to knock us out of our stride.

“I’m confident that if we perform to our level, it can be enough.”