FC Porto vs Glasgow Rangers - Gerrard savouring prospect of Pepe v Morelos in Porto

Posted Thursday, October 24, 2019 by PA

FC Porto vs Glasgow Rangers - Gerrard savouring prospect of Pepe v Morelos in Porto

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard admits pitting Alfredo Morelos against Pepe would make for the most intriguing battle of their Europa League clash with Porto.

Morelos has improved his discipline after being sent off five times last season, although he remains a combative opponent and has been booked five times across 20 appearances.

Pepe, now in his second spell with Porto, earned a reputation as one of the most uncompromising centre-backs in football during a decade at Real Madrid and across more than 100 caps for Portugal.

Gerrard feels all eyes would be on the pair if he selects the Colombian up front but he believes his top goalscorer would relish the challenge of facing 36-year-old defender Pepe, who has been a European champion three times with Real and once with his country.

Morelos has scored 15 goals already this term, nine of them in Europe.

“Listen, if Alfredo is selected to play it will be a fascinating battle,” Gerrard said. “Pepe has been a world-class player throughout his career, a very decorated individual who I have a lot of respect and admiration for.

“But Alfredo is in a good place, he is playing well, he is in good form and I’m sure he will be itching to start. I’m sure he will be looking forward to testing himself against the best.

“There will be a lot of really intriguing key battles across the pitch but I’m sure all eyes will be on that one.”

Gerrard believes facing a team which reached the last eight of the Champions League last season in the 50,000-seat Estadio do Dragao can inspire his players.

“From my point of view it has to,” he said. “I don’t think this is an arena or fixture where you can come and perform below par. If we have got any ambition to take anything away from this, whether it’s a win or a point, we have to max out, that’s in and out of possession.

“We have to find a performance that’s close to our best to take something, we are well aware of that.

“But I have belief in the players that we can find that because coming to a place like this, an arena that has the wow factor, a pitch that’s perfect, against an opposition that all the players will have huge respect for, more often than not that’s when you can find your performance.

“And that’s why I’m really looking forward to this fixture because I think we can really put in a proud performance.”

Porto manager Sergio Conceicao has warned his players they could face a nasty surprise if they give Rangers too much space.

The former Lazio and Inter winger has been impressed with the way Rangers have attacked teams in some recent games.

And the 44-year-old cautioned not to underestimate their visitors.

When asked about Rangers’ strengths in pressing and winning second balls, the former Portugal international said: “Rangers are a team who play like they do traditionally in Scotland, with good fight and aggression and a positive attitude.

“They are strong in these moments when you fight for the second balls, but when you talk of duelling and second balls people sometimes misunderstand that they are not playing football.

“It depends on the team’s strategy, principles and dynamics because playing in a more direct way can be positive if it is properly considered.

“Rangers’ strategy is designed for this. We observed some matches where they have more space and they occupy the space properly in a very interesting way. If we are passive in defence we will have a lot of problems.

“But we are prepared for these scenarios.”

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