Rangers vs Aberdeen Preview - 27/4/19

Sunday will see Rangers embark upon a run of three straight home games, each featuring against sides that we have struggled to pick up points against for one reason or another this season. First up is Aberdeen, the side who has been our kryptonite in both domestic cup competitions, the theme going into this game is certainly revenge. The league meetings between the sides have been as even as they can be, results-wise, one win each, at each other's grounds and who can forget the draw the two sides played out on the opening day of the season. It is worth noting that Aberdeen have visited Glasgow to face us three times this season, three times left with the win. 

For our part Rangers, we are coming off an impressive run and performance levels in the last three games, wins home and away against Hearts sandwiched between a Scot Arfield hat-trick on the road at Fir Park. This now leaves us just one point off our total points tally from last season, serving as evidence and further proof that progress has indeed been made, even if it's not been at the rate that some expect or demand. 

The last three fixtures were really pleasing on the eye, last Saturdays Hearts game at Tynecastle was arguably the best of the lot, a game that we had complete domination of from start to finish, even if we did concede a late goal, don't let that deceive you into thinking that the game was in any way closer than it was, no, in fact, had we run out victors by five or six goals the Hearts, management, players and supporters could have had absolutely no complaints. For me, the biggest reason for our upturn in form has been the form of Kamara and Davis , two additions in the January window that cost a combined total of 50k (all on Kamara). Davis is now match fit after arriving clearly short in that department and the same can be said about Kamara who didn't play a great deal for Dundee this season. Davis getting up to speed and being deployed in a role that is better suited to his talents, sitting deeper, picking up the ball and doing what he is best at, passing with the game in front of him has had a butterfly effect for the rest of the team. Arfield can be pushed upfield, where his runs and link up play is most effective, playing narrower than what we asked of a Grezda, or Kent at times this season. It's has also in my view contributed in a positive way for Ryan Jack, no longer are we asking him to get on the ball and push forward, that is not or has ever been the strong point in his game. Like Colonel Sanders, Jack is good at one thing, and that is breaking up the opposition, Davis in there alongside him is allowing him to do just that, his recent performances have been evidently better than earlier on the season. The midfield now has great balance and with Ryan, Kent returning this Sunday its looking good in the search for consistency and momentum building as we close out our season. 

Aberdeen are coming off a 1-0 victory away to Kilmarnock a big win for the Pittodrie sides quest for third place. This was a game that resembled a Royal Rumble at times more than a football match at the top end of the table. Not that that will surprise anyone, Kilmarnock ending the game with just nine players as they failed to control themselves, in a display of indiscipline that was on show on and off the park. 

Before we get into any stats, we know what Aberdeen are as a side. They are a team that focuses on set pieces, it was no surprise that their goal in the match with Kilmarnock came about this way, a headed goal from a corner. We ourselves have been victims of this tactic, way back in the League Cup semi-final, then again in the Scottish Cup game away, where they didn't score but did have a sustained spell of pressure during which we could have done a better job in defending against in my eyes, this is certainly Aberdeens biggest threat to us. They will attempt to get the ball into wide areas as quickly as possible, then cross it in for Cosgrove who already has 16 goals to his name this season. Stopping crosses are vital, cutting out the supply line.  Like Hearts, they do play narrow when not in possession, the main aim and function of this is in an attempt to try and stop any momentum or the opposition midfield gaining a stronghold in the game. Again, this is an are we have improved in since the last time the side faced off against each other, the manager will be looking to see this upward trend continue come Sunday. 

Aberdeen currently sits third in the table, eight points behind us in second and three ahead of Kilmarnock in forth. Form-wise in the last six matches they are fith, however only a point separates them from top spot l, Rangers are third on goal difference but level on points with us and Hibernian. On tje away form guide Aberdeen sit top from the last right fixtures, three points clear of ourselves and Celtic. So this will be a tough test, Aberdeen have a far stronger away record than home. Aberdeen have had twelve clean sheets this season in the league, failed to score in seven games and average a goal every 1.29 minutes away from home while conceding 0.82. The average time for both scoring and conceding a goal when on the road is the same 44mins, but don't let that fool you Aberdeen have scored the largest majority of their goals between 75-90mins (20.8%).

Key men for the Dons are top goal scorer Cosgrove, a player who is having a very good season surprising many, including myself, he is dangerous in the air, strong and always there to feed off any scraps on thing that has impressed me is his reactions,  many of his goals this campaign have come from following the ball in, winning that second ball. McKenna at the back is the player Aberdeen value the highest, a good siege defender at times, as we saw earlier in the season at Ibrox if you cross the ball with little or no angle on it then he will deal with it every time without too much hassle, where he can be caught and exploited in is movement, quick give and go's, runs to the near post from quality cross balls with little or no height, but plenty of pace will cause issues to the back line as a whole, not just McKenna. Shinnie in the middle is the player Aberdeen take their tempo from, not a great player by any stretch, he can be slack in possession, his strength is merely stamping his presence on the game, breaking up play, by any means possible, with it be tackles or fouls. As I said this is where we have come undone in the past, getting dragged down into exactly the type of match that suits them far better than it does us. Play football, at pace with purpose and forward passes and Aberdeen will struggle, just look at the last league game up at Pittodrie as all the evidence you need. 

My prediction for this game is a 2-0 victory for Rangers, we will have to dig deep at times, be patient, Aberdeen won't be too concerned with not seeing the ball for long spells, its a case of us making the correct decisions when we do find ourselves in a position to do so, then taking advantage, something I'm confident we can do. 

The last three games have been great, but it's the next three that will tell us where we are going. 

Please, get in touch, what're your thoughts, predictions, lineups ?. 

Steven Harrigan

@steven_harrigan

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