Rangers assistant manager Gary McAllister believes their run of matches over the festive period will play a key part in determining whether they can claim their first Scottish Premiership title for 10 years.
Steven Gerrard’s side go into Wednesday’s game with St Johnstone 16 points clear of Celtic in second place, albeit having played three games more than their Glasgow rivals.
The trip to Perth comes before the visit of Hibernian on Boxing Day, swiftly followed by St Mirren away before they take on Celtic at Ibrox on January 2 – live on Sky Sports.
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“Christmas and New Year is always key, no matter what league you are playing in, especially here in the UK where there are loads of games and the scheduling is really tough,” said McAllister.
“If you can get through it, then it goes a long way to where you will finish at the end of the season.
“It’s a massive week to 10 days of high-intensity matches.”
Rangers are in the unusual position of being league pacesetters this season but McAllister insists that is not a problem, with the players encouraged to focus their attentions on each game as it comes, without having to worry about the bigger picture.
“The feeling at the moment is, with this big schedule, we are looking at each game individually. You can’t look too far ahead,” he added.
“Maybe as staff we do but what we are trying to impress on the squad of players is to just deal with the next game in front of you and then we can turn our attentions to the next one [after that].
“After the Motherwell result, which was really positive and we are delighted with, we turn our attentions to the game tomorrow again St Johnstone.”
Alfredo Morelos returns from suspension for the St Johnstone game and there is also good news on the injury front, with Ryan Jack closing on a return to match action after more than a month out with a knee problem.
McAllister said: “The pleasing thing is that Ryan Jack has had a couple of good days on the grass.
“He’s back and we’re pretty hopeful that he can be in and around the squad for Hibs on Boxing Day. That’s a big boost going into this busy schedule.”
Rangers defender Borna Barisic also referenced Saturday’s game with Motherwell, which saw them come from behind at half-time after falling behind after just six minutes to win 3-1 against stubborn opposition.
That match came just days after Gers were surprisingly knocked out of the Scottish League Cup by St Mirren but Barisic is convinced that is evidence of their resilient nature this season.
“I think that we showed character because I remember last season and the season before when we would be 1-0 down, we’d always struggle to come back,” he said.
“We would start to panic and maybe we couldn’t come back. But this time we believed in each other on the pitch, didn’t panic and in the end I think we deserved that win.
“We again scored three goals and showed the team spirit we have and a very different character from last season and the year before.”
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