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Gary McAllister: Rangers can cope with missing players after Covid-19 outbreak

Rangers v Slavia Prague – UEFA Europa League – Round of Sixteen – Second Leg – Ibrox Stadium
(Image credit: Ian McNichol)

Gary McAllister is adamant Rangers have a strong enough squad to secure their progress to the Europa League group stage despite a Covid-19 outbreak forcing Steven Gerrard and some of his key men to miss the second leg of their play-off with Alashkert.

The Light Blues flew out of Glasgow on Wednesday morning without their boss and a batch of players after it emerged on Tuesday that some members of the group had tested positive and others had been identified as close contacts.

Although the identity of the players has not officially been confirmed by the club, goalkeepers Allan McGregor and Jon McLaughlin, captain James Tavernier and winger Ryan Kent are among those who – along with Gerrard – did not make the trip to Yerevan. In addition, Kemar Roofe and John Lundstram are both suspended for the second leg.

Speaking in a pre-match media briefing in the Armenian capital, assistant boss McAllister is confident the squad – augmented by the promotion of some youngsters – still has enough quality to protect a 1-0 first-leg lead and seal a place in the group stage for the fourth year running.

He said: “We have a strong squad, we have been hit with suspensions and Covid but we have to adapt and utilise our squad. The players in the squad have to go and grasp the opportunity.

“When you see the team on Thursday you will see it can play in most games. The team is capable of going and getting the result. My feeling is we can go and score goals.

“We have some youngsters from the B team with us who have impressed recently and we are confident that all of them can do a job if they get on the pitch.

“Already it is a great experience for the younger guys. We are very confident in our young players. We’ve just got to adapt and take advantage of the fact we have a big squad.”

Even though Gerrard has not travelled to Armenia, he will remain in regular contact with the squad remotely in the build-up to the match.

McAllister said: “All the presentations and messaging will remain the same, the manager will still speak to the players and of course we have Michael Beale here along with myself. We are in constant contact with Steven.”

McAllister has no worries about 23-year-old goalkeeper Robby McCrorie being deployed in the absence of veteran duo McGregor and McLaughlin.

He said: “I have been impressed with Robby from day one of pre-season. Since we returned in the summer I have seen a different player after he gained valuable experience out on loan at Livingston last season.

“He has become more confident, more chatty. He is a real workhorse and there’s more confidence and maturity about him as a man. It’s been nice to see him coming out of his shell and maybe for the first time starting to believe ‘I belong here’.”

It is unclear whether any of the absentees from the Armenia trip will be available for Sunday’s Old Firm showdown with Celtic at Ibrox.

McAllister said: “Obviously we are adapting and moving along. We have arrived here now and we are purely focused on the job at hand. We are fully focused on getting the job done here before the focus turns to the weekend.”