Rangers manager Steven Gerrard suspects under-pressure Angelo Alessio will take a leaf out of the Steve Clarke playbook as he looks to win over the Kilmarnock faithful on Sunday.
The Italian got off to a bad start in Ayrshire when Killie were dumped out of the Europa League by Welsh minnows Connah’s Quay.
Antonio Conte’s former right-hand man has already admitted he is struggling to implement the style that helped Juventus, Italy and Chelsea succeed at Rugby Park as a result of his troubles in the transfer market.
Alessio has signed just two new players having lost nine over the summer and confessed his first few weeks in the job have been plagued by “difficulties”.
Now Gerrard – whose team travel south to face Killie in Sunday’s Ladbrokes Premiership curtain-raiser – admits it would be no surprise if Kilmarnock switched back to the stuffy style that Clarke used to such good effect last season as he twice masterminded home wins over the Light Blues.
“Every time we played Kilmarnock at home or away last season it was a tough game, a competitive game,” said the Ibrox manager.
“Under Steve Clarke they had a way of playing which was very organised with a lot of men behind the ball. They were very compact with not much space out there, with the idea to try to counter attack against you.
“They had some joy and success against us and we will wait and see if the new manager, Angelo, does the same thing with a similar game plan.
“It is difficult to predict because throughout pre-season they have played a different style which was quite open and they tried to play more football on the floor.
“It hasn’t really worked out for them so, if I was to guess, I think they might go back to more of how it looked under Steven Clarke – but that’s me guessing.”
Gers could be forgiven for being sick of the sight of Killie having faced them seven times last term. The Glasgow giants triumphed in both cup competitions but Killie proved harder to topple on league duty, twice securing score draws at Ibrox while earning a pair of 2-1 wins at Rugby Park.
The first of those Ayrshire upsets in January proved a turning point in the title race as it halted Rangers’ pre-Hogmonay push.
Now centre-back Connor Goldson admits his team must avoid dropping similar points if they want to challenge this term.
He said: “I think if you look at last season as a whole we had two defeats at Kilmarnock and two draws against them at home and when you look at those points over the course of the season and I’m sure it would’ve brought us a lot closer to achieving what we wanted to achieve.”
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