Steven Gerrard makes his Scottish Premiership bow when Rangers go to Pittodrie on Sunday and he'll be keen to lay down an early marker for the 2018-19 season. Betfair's Frankie Monkhouse gives a 17/2 prediction...
"In the five games mentioned, 2-1 was the score three times and those looking for a bigger price to make their Sunday afternoon viewing that little bit more interesting can try their luck on 2-1 Rangers at a cracking 17/2"
Week one of the new Scottish Premiership campaign and second plays third from last season. The Dons were able to hold their ground and finish in the silver medal position behind runaway champions Celtic in May and have a chance to lay down a marker for the year ahead with a home win over Rangers.
Pittodrie will be packed to the rafters, there will be a huge television audience and both sets of players have fitness onside thanks to midweek Europa League outings. It's time to shine.
Aberdeen battled their way to an impressive 1-1 draw with English Premier League side Burnley when last at this venue and everyone in the home dressing room will be confident of sticking a pin in the Steven Gerrard feel-good factor early. It has been a summer of change, but the stats tell us there should be plenty of goals with 10 scored in four meetings last term. Neutrals hope this renewal falls into line.
The home side are missing Shay Logan, Mark Reynolds, Frank Ross and Greg Tansey while Sam Cosgrove, Tommie Hoban and Niall McGinn are rated doubtful and will be given until the last minute to pass themselves fit.
Early signs of improvement under Gerrard
New Rangers manager Steven Gerrard was amongst the busiest managers in European football during the off-season as he cut the deadwood left over from the shambolic Pedro Caixinha era and added a freshness to the playing staff. His summer recruits include Alan McGregor, Connor Goldson, Nikola Katic, Jon Flanagan, Scott Arfield, Ovie Ejaria and Umar Sadiq. Fans loyal to the blue half of Glasgow hope it has the desired effect.
There has certainly been improvements in the short-term and as well as a couple of impressive friendly victories over English competition - 6-0 Bury and 3-0 Wigan - The Bears also recorded shut-out wins over Shkupi and NS Osijek in the Europa League. That's made all the more impressive when remembering Rangers were the Scottish top-flight's highest scorers last time with 76 but leaked 50 at the other end, 25 more than Celtic and 13 worse than Aberdeen.
Rangers have no fresh injury worries but have to do without long-term casualties Graham Dorrans, Declan John, Jordan Rossiter and Lee Wallace.
Tough midweek should take its toll
Rangers may have finished behind Aberdeen in the table, but they were undefeated against the Granite City boys, winning 3-0 and 2-0 at Ibrox as well as claiming a 2-1 win and 1-1 draw on the road. They also boast that fast-improving defence and in Goldson look to have a player capable of operating at a much higher level when match fit.
Another point worth remembering when betting on this match is Rangers enjoyed home advantage in the Europa League on Thursday and had a 1-0 lead to protect while Aberdeen had to endure extra-time at Turf Moor following home and away draws. There will be some tired legs in the local squad and that will show as Gerrard instructs his men to press high up the pitch. The Gers are slight favourites on the Betfair Exchange at [2.50] against the [3.0] of their hosts, the draw [3.35].
There will be goals in the Granite City
Siding with the stats and both teams scored in four of the last five matches involving these bitter rivals at this venue with the spare being a 3-0 Rangers win in April 2017. That'll push punters towards over 2.5 goals which can be backed at 11/10 on the Betfair Sportsbook, making more appeal than the 8/11 this one bucks the trend.
In the five games mentioned, 2-1 was the score three times and those looking for a bigger price to make their Sunday afternoon viewing that little bit more interesting can try their luck on 2-1 Rangers at a cracking 17/2 - market best price through the Sportsbook.