DAVID SMITH - Friday, January 13, 2012
The trio of Americans at Rangers will try to keep keep within shooting distance of the league lead on Saturday when they visit St. Johnstone.
FC St. Johnstone - Glasgow Rangers
Maurice Edu and Carlos Bocanegra will likely keep their places in Ally McCoist's starting lineup as Rangers visit St. Johnstone for Saturday's early kickoff.
Alejandro Bedoya should begin Saturday's game as an option off the bench, but could be called upon to make his first appearance of the new year.
The Gers met little resistance in their last outing as they soared to the final 16 of the Scottish Cup with a 4-0 win over relative minnows FC Arboath on Sunday. The victory earned them a fifth-round visit from Dundee United in early-February's fifth round, however any potential cup glory will be put on the backburner as they try to rescue their Premier League season.
A tough run through the final six weeks of the 2011 during saw their one-time twelve-point lead atop the standings turned into a two-point deficit behind archrivals Celtic.
While they have been able to begin the new year with a pair of convincing wins, the threat of losing out on a fourth consecutive league title will weigh heavy, making a victory against a currently-hot St. Johnstone team a must.
The Saints have notched up three straight wins heading into Saturday's game, setting up a Scottish Cup meeting with fourth-place team Hearts along the way, and will once again be looking to stifle their opponents in a similar fashion as in the scoreless draw between these two teams in mid-November.
Rangers head coach McCoist, was dealt a blow during the week with the news that defender Steven Whittaker will be missing for the next six weeks after undergoing a hernia operation, and the situation could be further complicated should his replacement Kurt Broadfoot be unable to fight through his nagging knee problem.
In addition, forward Kyle Lafferty is expected to miss the next six weeks with a hamstring tear, and fellow frontline mate Nikola Jelavic is also questionable after sitting out the first two games with a groin pull.
For the hosts, defender Frazer Wright is still a major question mark to return from a thigh injury that has kept him on the sidelines since early-December, however on-loan striker Cillian Sheridan could finally make his return after a long absence due to a hamstring injury in late-November.
Dominic Cervi's loan spell at Greenock Morton has ended, meaning the American keeper will once again be a spectator as Celtic try to protect their two-point lead atop the Scottish Premier League standings on Saturday with a visit from sixth-place Dundee United.