Rangers manager Michael Beale says his players are motivated to defeat Celtic this weekend and give their fans a lift before the summer break.
The Ibrox side have failed to beat their rivals in five attempts this season and have seen their trophy hopes ended, but have a chance to take a morale-boosting home victory in the final Old Firm derby of the season on Saturday.
The end of the campaign will trigger an extensive rebuild of the Rangers squad, with plenty of players leaving as Beale puts his own stamp on the team.
But despite some players being in the last weeks of their time at the club, and having nothing to play for, the manager says there will be plenty of desire to go out on a high.
“I think this game certainly focuses your attention,” the Rangers manager said. “You live in a city where this game is hugely important to everybody.
“Not one or two people or a certain amount. Every single person in this city has got a feeling or an allegiance to one of these two teams.
“I think the players are aware and they would like to give their fans something to hold on to over the summer.
“A win would mean a lot, like it always does in this fixture. We can’t do anything now about what’s gone past. In the last two games I think we’ve performed well and things have gone against us. One, because we’re playing a very good opponent in Celtic and, second, because we’ve shot ourselves in the foot in key moments at both ends of the pitch.”
In addition to the need to secure a win against fierce rivals, he said that the test would be valuable ahead of next season.
“It is important that we start to show that we can win against opponents of similar level or a higher level than us,” he said/
“That’s the challenge for this group, now and in the next four or five months, to prove that in the days when the game is in balance that we have the big moments and in games in Europe where you might see another team’s name and you might think their squad is worth more or whatnot, that this team stands up and show it.
“They have done it in the past, they have upset the odds in big European games and domestic ones, I would say to this group that they need to start doing it again.”
Beale confirmed that goalkeeper Robby McCrorie will start in the game at Ibrox, while Ryan Jack returns to the squad, but Ben Davies and Ryan Kent have been ruled out. he will make further changes form the side that lost to Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final and thinks the chance to impress is there for everyone.
He said: “Tomorrow, the team looks a bit different from the last two games so there’s opportunity for people to play, opportunities to do well, and it’s a game that’s watched worldwide so there should be a lot of excitement and energy towards this game from my team.
“It’s been a season of disappointment and we’ve spoken about it. What I would like to do is just focus on this game. There’s four games to go and the season is going to end within two weeks. We want to end the season well. In the main, our league form has been fantastic and our home form has been particularly strong this year.
“It’s been where you need your home form to be if you want to challenge across the full season and we want to keep that going. I think eyes are on this game. It doesn’t matter when this game is played and what’s at stake, the eyes are always on it and it’s an opportunity to do well.”
No rift with Morelos
After seeing his team defeat Aberdeen 1-0 last weekend, the Rangers boss was critical of Alfredo Morelos’ contribution, with the Colombian striker failing to impress as he reaches the end of his contract.
Though he had publicly criticised the player, Beale insisted there was no rift between them and didn’t rule out a role against Celtic.
“Alfredo will be in the squad and still available for selection,” he said.
“I spoke to him before I made those comments. I was asked the question and I didn’t feel it was his best performance in terms of energy. I’ve not had to say that too much working with him.
“Our relationship is really honest and upfront and always has been. There’s no issue with me and him and likewise with any player, if I think their energy needs to be better then I’ll say it. It’s just honesty and they respect that because it’s two-way.
“He’s fine. He’s quite robust. He’s lived and worked in Scotland for five or six years so a lot worse has been said about Alfredo in that time. I thought he could have made a more positive impact but he’s fine.
“We talk, we get on, he’s trained well this week and he’s available for selection. He’s a Rangers player until he moves on. There’s no drama there.
“I think he’s keen to continue playing and he’s keen to keep showcasing what he can do. It’s important for Alfredo that he finishes his time at Rangers well and also for what he wants to do in the future.”
The manager also revealed that he had spoken to every player who would be leaving the club this summer.
“Each one was different,” he said. “I suppose I know these players and I’ve known them for a long time so I’ve seen most of them on the way in.
“Each person’s situation was different but they took it in the right way and we’re all on the same page.
“Obviously there’s some players that are in contract whose futures may be elsewhere as well. Obviously that all remains in private but I’ve got no issues with any of the players and the way we speak is really open and honest.”