Steven Gerrard rules out wholesale changes for Europa League clash

Steven Gerrard insists he will not send a second-string outfit to Poland as he hinted Ryan Jack and Filip Helander could return for Rangers to face Lech Poznan on Thursday.

Gers have already qualified for the Europa League’s last 32 with a game to spare but Gerrard’s team can still claim a £900,000 bonus if they finish top of Group D.

The Light Blues are level on 11 points with Benfica ahead of the final round of fixtures but have a better head-to-head record against the Super Eagles and will definitely progress as group winners with victory over the Poles.

That would also mean they are seeded when the draw for the opening knock-out round is made on December 14 but with another vital Premiership clash away to Dundee United to come on Sunday, Gerrard will want to keep his big names as fresh as possible for Tannadice as they look to maintain their 13-point lead over Celtic.

That will leave the Ibrox boss with some tough choices to make but Jack and Helander are likely to be involved.

Scotland midfielder Jack has missed his side’s last four games with a knee issue while centre-back Helander is due to emerge from quarantine ahead of the game after last week’s positive Covid-19 test.

Gerrard, speaking after his side hammered Ross County 4-0 on Sunday, said: “I need to do the right thing for the squad. So let’s see how we recover from here.

Ryan Jack goes off injured against Dundee United
Ryan Jack goes off injured against Dundee United

“I’m hoping to have Ryan Jack back and available, I’m hoping Filip Helander will be available again. I’m hoping they will both play some part.

“But it’s a tough situation for me because, yes, of course we want to top the group and it will be important. But at the same time, Dundee United is such a big fixture.

“There won’t be wholesale changes. It won’t be a case of changing eight or nine. There will be subtle changes within it.

“I’ll try and pick a team to get the job done while protecting the big picture as well.”

Jermain Defoe climbed off the bench to mark his 800th career appearance with a goal in Dingwall and Gerrard sees no signs of his 38-year-old former England team-mate slowing down yet.

Steven Gerrard, left, congratulates Jermain Defoe at the end of the win over Ross County
Steven Gerrard, left, congratulates Jermain Defoe at the end of the win over Ross County

He said: “It wouldn’t surprise me if he went on to make 900 appearances. He’s in incredible shape and loves coming into work.

“He is still trying to learn and improve. He is ready at any given moment. You can see he is hungry to get on the pitch, you can tell by his performance he is still hungry to score goals.

“It’s a big help knowing you’ve got JD there to come and help kill teams off. He’ll start enough games this season and he’ll get enough cameos coming on. He is a big, important player for us moving forward.”