Rangers boss Caixinha prepares for first taste of Pittodrie 'hell'

Roddy Forsyth
The Telegraph
Pedro Caixinha is excited by the challenge at Rangers - Rex Features
Pedro Caixinha is excited by the challenge at Rangers - Rex Features

Dave King left Pedro Caixinha in no doubt that Rangers had underperformed prior to the new manager’s arrival last month, as successor to Mark Warburton.

The Ibrox support will, like their chairman, scrutinise proceedings at Pittodrie on Sunday for signs that Caixinha is capable of displacing Aberdeen as the second force in Scottish football – if not in what remains of the current campaign, then certainly in next season’s endeavours.

King and his directors had expected that, by this stage of the proceedings, Rangers would have been midway between Aberdeen and Celtic, a target which, had it been fulfilled, would have seen the Ibrox side sitting around the 76-point mark.

Instead, they are on 52 points and defeat on their second visit to the Granite City would leave them 15 points adrift of the Dons and in danger of being overtaken by St Johnstone.

“If there is a direct link between investment and the position in the table then I should say definitely yes, we should be splitting Celtic and Aberdeen, but in football there are sometimes things you can’t control,” Caixinha said.

“I cannot say what happened before our arrival because I didn’t watch all of the games, but I know the situation now. The players have the potential but it is maybe inside of them and they haven’t expressed it to the level they can.”

That is not a judgement that can be pronounced on Aberdeen, who are bidding for an 11th successive home victory to equal the record set in 1983-84 under the then unknighted Alex Ferguson.

Having surprised his media interrogators on Tuesday by revealing Rangers’ starting selection 36 hours ahead of their visit to Kilmarnock, Caixinha declined to repeat the exercise – on the grounds that he had not told his players the team for Sunday – but did display the Aberdeen line-up he expected to see.

<span>Expected Aberdeen line-up</span>
Expected Aberdeen line-up

It hardly counted as a surprise, being the same selection favoured by his Aberdeen counterpart, Derek McInnes, for the Dons’ three most recent games. Still, it added to the impression of Caixinho as a singular operator and, when mention was made of Pittodrie’s reputation as a venue particularly hostile to Rangers, he displayed a sure grasp of the dynamics of coverage of Scottish football’s enduring contentions.

“Everybody says we are going to Hell and I like those type of scenarios,” he said, having spoken in succession to the broadcast contingent and Sunday newspapers. “Maybe hell is a strong word – we have come from hell to hostile and now we are finished with a challenge.

“That is the reason you do this separately, to take one word from there, another from here and maybe another, but I respect that. If you want to put it on the front page, for me it is fantastic.

“Lee McCulloch (the Kilmarnock caretaker manager) told me that Rangers going to play Aberdeen is always a tough game. Jim our kit man told me the same. I love it - I was missing playing and coaching under those conditions when I was in Qatar. The players will love it as well.”

Caixinho, who saw Aberdeen’s 7-0 demolition of Dundee at Dens Park two weeks ago, praised McInnes and his squad.

“I like the anger that they have, the commitment that they have, their collective play and the fight for their goals,” he said.

“I face it as a fantastic challenge for us, to see if we have solutions to beat that passion. For example, we have changed from one defensive system to another, defending set pieces. I prefer the team to be defending zonal.

“That means we are more compact, we are responsible for one part of the pitch. I don’t like the players to be dragged easily and they find spaces. That is one point we have been working on.

“I give the answers I want to give. I prepare the things I want to prepare. This is Rangers and we want things to be the way we want them to be.”

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