One pleasing recent development is the emergence of a midfield trio of Celtic’s Callum McGregor, Ryan Jack, of Rangers and John McGinn of Aston Villa, who scored six goals in the three closing games. Scott Brown, the Celtic captain, has hinted that he could come out of international retirement for the play-offs, but Steven Gerrard responded with a stout defence of Jack, who earned his third cap against Kazakhstan.
“McGinn is a fantastic player, Callum McGregor, too – just to show everyone I’m not biased – was fantastic,” the Rangers manager said. “The three of them really shone together and complemented each other very well.
“The midfield is the area of the team in which Scotland are strongest, but let me tell you right now that Ryan Jack is a match for any of them in his own way in terms of what he gives to a team and what he gives to a manager.”
The spotlight now shifts back to domestic action, which sees Celtic and Rangers separated by goal difference at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership. The leaders are at home to Livingston on Saturday and Neil Lennon suggested that Hoops fans might see a favourite striker return.
“Leigh Griffiths will be involved in the squad this weekend. We have seen enough now to think he may make a contribution,” Lennon said. “We have 11 games between now and the end of December and we will be using the squad and Leigh obviously is a part of that.”
The Celtic manager will have to make changes elsewhere because of injuries to Mohamed Elyounoussi and Hatem Abd Elhamed.
Rangers travel to Hamilton on Sunday in unusually good shape, according to Gerrard. “I can’t remember the last time we had everyone fit and available. I don’t believe we’ve ever had one,” he said.
“Even in pre-season, players can drop out with blisters because you are trying to push them. It’s nice to have a clean bill of health because we are heading into a crucial block of games.”
Elsewhere, Jack Ross takes charge of Hibernian for the first time when Motherwell visit Easter Road, but Hearts have yet to fill the job vacated by Craig Levein as they travel to Kilmarnock. The bottom club, St Mirren, must take something from the visit of Ross County or risk falling significantly behind in the table.
Like Rangers, third-placed Aberdeen are in action on Sunday, when they head to Perth for a meeting with St Johnstone, who are second from bottom, two points above St Mirren.