Steven Gerrard fears he may have to do without key Rangers duo Scott Arfield and Ryan Jack for their William Hill Scottish Cup replay with Kilmarnock.
The midfield pair were surprise absentees for Saturday’s sorry stalemate with St Johnstone as Gers – already missing suspended top scorer Alfredo Morelos – lacked the inspiration needed to break down Tommy Wright’s team.
Gerrard refused to pin the blame for that goalless Ibrox draw on the fact his big trio were sidelined but the Light Blues badly lacked the energy and power all three provide.
Morelos will be back for Wednesday night’s fifth-round clash with Killie but Gerrard is worried Arfield and Jack will again be forced to sit out the visit of Steve Clarke’s men to Govan.
The Rangers boss said: “Scott Arfield has a chance but Jack blocked a tackle at Kilmarnock last week and twisted his ankle, so he is a big doubt for Wednesday.
“Arfield has a chance – but it’s not a good chance.
“Scott has a couple of dead legs. One of them he actually picked up before the first Kilmarnock game, so Scott wouldn’t miss a game with a dead leg. It’s more of a flush in a calf muscle.”
Gerrard told his side they can forget about pushing Celtic for the title this season after squandering the chance to put pressure on the Hoops ahead of their Rugby Park trip by slashing their lead at the top to three points.
Realistically, the Scottish Cup remains Gerrard’s last remaining hope of lifting a trophy in his first season at Ibrox.
But regardless of the state of their title race hopes, the Rangers manager expects his players to be fired up for Killie.
He said: “Wednesday is big anyway. Where we are after Saturday’s result probably does mean the replay becomes bigger but a chance to make a quarter-final should always be exciting.
“If it’s not then maybe you’re in the wrong place.”
St Johnstone bounced back from five straight defeats – including a 5-0 cup pasting from Celtic last week – to claim a much-deserved point at Ibrox.
And boss Wright paid tribute to his players for retaining belief throughout their miserable run.
“The boys didn’t need lifting,” insisted the Northern Irishman, whose side almost snatched victory late on when Blair Alston’s lob hit the bar. “They’re good players who wouldn’t let three defeats against Celtic affect them.
“We knew it would be a difficult period and we could have done better but we have more points than this season and the season before.
“When good players play as well as they can as they did on Saturday, we get results. Nobody would have given us a chance but we believed and had total faith in them.
“Not many teams could take a beating at Celtic then come here in the next game, keep a clean sheet and almost win the game.”