Rangers face Kilmarnock in the third league meeting of the sides at Ibrox this season. The situation caused by the ludicrousness of the split is even more strange as it will be the third different manager leading the Rangers team in those matches. With Murty relieved of his role and Nicholl taking over, there are yet more unknowns added to what would be a difficult match regardless.
KILMARNOCK LEAGUE FORM
Kilmarnock are 5th in the league on 55 points. They’re 9 points ahead of Hearts, and 10 behind Rangers and Hibernian. As such, they are pretty much set to finish the season in that position. With 48 goals scored and 46 conceded, they are the only team in the top 6 to have let in more goals than Rangers. Away from home this season, they’ve lost only 3 matches so far.
LAST 5 LEAGUE RESULTS
Hamilton (home), 2-0 win
Partick Thistle (away), 1-0 win
Hamilton (away), 2-1 win
Aberdeen (home), 2-0 defeat
Hibernian (away), 5-3 defeat
LIKELY LINE UP
At the time of writing, the pre-match press conferences haven’t been held. For Kilmarnock, Mulumbu didn’t start their previous two matches, but did come off the bench against Hibs. With this in mind, you’d imagine he’ll start the match. In their 1-0 win at Ibrox, Kilmarnock played a 4-5-1, with Jones and Brophy in the wide areas. Power and Dicker will sit deeper in midfield, allowing Mulumbu to play higher up the pitch. Their back 4 of Taylor, Findlay, Broadfoot and O’Donnell is pretty settled now. In goals, Leo Fasan seems to have replaced Jamie MacDonald in recent matches. Kris Boyd will start up front and look to add to his 3 goals against Rangers this season.
KILMARNOCK ATTACKING APPROACH
Kilmarnock have the lowest amount of possession in the league at 44%. Despite this, they are the 5th highest scorers, which shows the strength of their counter-attacking play. They average 15 crosses per match, with a success rate of 32%. O’Donnell from right back, and Jones from wide left, are the players who get the ball into the box the most for them.
They’ll average around 11 shots on goal, and unsurprisingly Boyd leads the way there with 89 so far for the season. The only players who have hit more shots at goal this season are Windass (97) and Morelos (91). Boyd leads the way for headed efforts at goal, and overall he hits the target with 43% accuracy. An interesting statistic is that Boyd will average just over 3 shots per 90 minutes, but also only 3 touches in the box per 90 minutes. Those combined statistics give you a good impression of his style of play, with first-time shots being a real strength.
In terms of assists, Stephen O’Donnell has 5 for the season from right back. Jordan Jones has 4 so far, mostly from the left wing. Jones is the most direct player in the league, with 391 dribbling attempts. He will beat his man 66% of the time, and will see a lot of the ball.
Despite normally playing a low possession, high pace counter style, I suspect Kilmarnock may look to put more pressure on Rangers in this match. Jones, Brophy, O’Donnell and Mulumbu will get forward and play with real attacking intent.
Kilmarnock win around 21.6% of their defensive duels. Of their regular starters, Dicker is probably best at just under 30%, and most others are around their average. At centre half, Broadfoot wins only 52% of his aerial duels, which is quite a low number.
As you would expect, Kilmarnock allow the opposition to play more passes before winning the ball back than anyone else in the league. They average over 10 per match in this respect. However, as mentioned earlier, I suspect they won’t take this approach with Rangers likely to be low in confidence.
Of the goals conceded by Kilmarnock, only 5 have been from outside the area. They are good at forcing teams to break them down. At left back, Taylor has faced the most defensive duels, and is likely to again in this match.
RANGERS TEAM NEWS
Without updates, the fitness of Alves is unknown. Bates has returned to training, but I’d imagine he’s likely to miss out in this match. Declan John will miss the rest of the season after breaking his wrist, and it seems Foderingham is still out. With Miller and Wallace still suspended, there are a few options not available to Nicholl and Johansson. It’s also difficult to know just how they’d prefer the team to play.
PREDICTED STARTING LINE UP
The above is total guesswork. I suspect we’ll see a slightly more conservative approach, to try and allow the team to regain some confidence defensively. With Morelos being pretty much a Johansson signing, I believe he’ll start the match. Candeias and Murphy will be key as always, and using another midfielder will give more stability to the team.
I’m not expecting much of a spectacle for this match. Rangers will be low on confidence, and Kilmarnock have very little to play for. Having taken only 1 point in 3 matches against the Ayrshire side, Rangers will be keen to get the victory. In the fight for second place, it’s a vital match. With all of that in mind, I believe Rangers will win 2-0 in a scrappy affair as they have more to play for.
How do you see the game going? Tweet us @abouttherangers with your thoughts!