STEVEN GERRARD has explained why he ditched Daniel Candeias from his Rangers squad for tonight’s opening Europa League qualifier against St Joseph’s in Gibraltar.
The Ibrox boss, who has signed 22 players in just over a year, admitted his summer arrivals have given him some selection headaches.
Greg Stewart, Sheyi Ojo, Joe Aribo, Jake Hastie, Jordan Jones and George Edmundson impressed in the 5-0 friendly win over Oxford on Sunday and are all in competition for their competitive debuts in the European tie.
Gerrard has left experienced players such as Portuguese winger Candeias at home because of UEFA limits around numbers and homegrown players.
The Liverpool legend, speaking on the club website, said: “I thought in the main they were all very positive with their debuts. A lot of them are here with us and should play some part.
“We are very pleased with not just Sunday’s performance, but how they have all settled in really quickly.
“Andy [Halliday] and I were speaking in the car on the way here about how they have started very strongly, and straight away they have given me big decisions to make.
“As the weeks go by, sometimes I’m going to have to make big calls and leave big players out who are good players. But we are hoping this is going to be a 60-game season.”
ON THE RUN…Daniel Candeias will play a part in Steven Gerrard’s plans.
Candeias scored on Sunday and made 52 appearances last season and Gerrard reassured the forward he still has a role in his plans.
He added: “It’s just a numbers’ game. You can swap and change – I’m not going to make a big thing of it. It is just the way it is when you have big numbers, big squads, big players and competition for places.
“It is only normal from week to week that it changes on who is in and who is out. Daniel is a good player who played a lot of games for me last year and I predict the same could happen again this year.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he is involved in the competition in the next round if we are to progress.”
Alfredo Morelos travelled after missing the Oxford clash with a groin strain.
Gerrard said: “I think we have to think about where he is at – he has missed probably a week now and he only played probably 20 or 25 minutes against Mansfield, so this would be his second game and we will have to be careful with him.”
Full-back Jon Flanagan is missing after undergoing hernia surgery which will sideline him for about three weeks, while winger Jamie Murphy will face Ayr United in a friendly tonight as he continues his rehab from a knee injury that wrecked last season.