Rangers v Liverpool: Antonio Colak has made a compelling case for the start of the Champions League

Venue: Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow Date: Wednesday October 12 Time: 20:00 BST
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Antonio Colak or Alfredo Morelos? The question was posed to several Rangers fans outside Anfield ahead of last week’s Champions League defeat to Liverpool.

And despite Colak’s significant goal return, a slight majority favored Morelos. Ibrox manager Giovannni van Bronckhorst also opted for the Colombian, with the Croatian brought in from the bench later in the 2-0 loss.

Morelos’ record in Europe – or, at least, in the Europa League – is impressive. His inclusion last week could have been based on that and the idea that he could ruffle Liverpool’s seemingly fragile back line. He didn’t, in the end.

In his defense, he barely sniffled. However, Colak’s case to start on Wednesday when the Premier League side visit Ibrox has become compelling. Thirteen goals in 16 games. Ten out of nine in the Scottish Premiership. Six in his last three in the league.

The 29-year-old’s confidence must be at an all-time high and surely that’s exactly what Rangers need after a bruising experience in their opening three Champions League games?

It was Colak’s goal in Eindhoven that delivered Champions League football. He also scored in the first leg. He also has a point to prove now. Fitness and hunger could be a powerful combination.

The striker, signed from PAOK in the summer, has played eight competitive games at Ibrox. Only once did he fail to score – against Napoli in a game Rangers took part in until he was down to 10 men after an hour.

In these Govan matches, Colak’s goal return is 10. Impressive stats. He seems to thrive in that atmosphere and the Ibrox cauldron is one that Rangers have generally reveled in on the European stage. A marriage made in heaven?

“I don’t think he’s guaranteed to start, but it would be very, very difficult to leave him out now,” former Ibrox striker Kenny Miller told Sportscene.

“When you’re at the top of your game – and he is right now – things happen for you. He’s been absolutely ruthless lately, anticipating where the ball is going to go and scoring big goals. He’s been a breath of fresh air.”

Can Colak “on fire” start a campaign?

Stats aren’t everything, and neither are goals, even for strikers. Colak has a high work rate and scores different types of goals as evidenced by his brace against St Mirren on Saturday.

One came in anticipating a close-range opportunity, the other cutting inside to create an angle and showing subtlety and confidence to drive the ball in with the outside of the foot.

This did not go unnoticed by his Van Bronckhorst, who said Colak was “on fire in the league”.

“I always look at what the game needs, what we need from the game,” added the manager. “If we want to continue our run in Europe, we need points, so that means you have to have a different, positive approach.”

Compare that with Morelos. Only two league goals this season. An unnecessary red card in a draw with Hibernian. Fitness and attitude issues left him out in that crucial qualifier against PSV.

He seems to have crumbled to some extent after the indignity of it all, but pound for pound, who would you support right now? Morelos or Colak?

Remarkably, the former has only debuted twice this season. But those two games were against Napoli and Liverpool, so he was backed to deliver on the bigger stage by his manager, even though his minutes were as limited as his impact.

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