Giovanni van Bronckhorst tells Rangers players to improve for Napoli clash

Sport

Giovanni van Bronckhorst has challenged his Rangers players to respond to the wounding criticism that has followed successive and heavy defeats when Napoli visit Ibrox. Rangers have conceded eight goals without reply against Celtic and Ajax; next up, the Serie A leaders. Van Bronckhorst was defiant in the face of suggestions he might have to alter his coaching approach.

“Three weeks ago we qualified for the Champions League, everything was fine,” the manager said. “Everyone was praised: the team, the staff, the club. We’re doing well. Two defeats later it looks like we haven’t performed in the last couple of years. That’s the dynamic of football.

“I’m not changing anything about my philosophy, how I want to play. Of course there is a lot of room for improvement. I think the most disappointing thing about the last two games is that we didn’t perform. That’s the disappointment I have, for sure the players have it because we have talked about it, that something that has to change.”

This implied Van Bronckhorst believes collective attitude has been Rangers’ problem. Napoli’s domestic form is notable enough even before the 4-1 Champions League defeat of Liverpool is taken into account. Rangers must somehow draw upon last season, when Borussia Dortmund were among the teams swatted aside as Van Bronckhorst led his team to the Europa League final.

“If I look at my team last week and see the performances of my players, I can pick six or seven who did not reach their level,” he said. “We need the level of performances by players to be up, and our team level as well or we are also going to struggle v Napoli. But I am confident after the week we have had, and the preparation, and of course the experience of the game last week, we will be in a much better place tomorrow. But of course there’s a time to perform and that is tomorrow starting at 8pm.”

Rangers will be without the injured Jon McLaughlin, whom Van Bronckhorst has used as his first-choice goalkeeper this season. Allan McGregor will deputise. The manager suggested he may hand a recall to Alfredo Morelos, who was recently banished from the squad amid concerns about fitness and attitude.

Napoli arrived in Scotland without the prolific Victor Osimhen, who limped off in the first half of the win over Liverpool. Giovanni Simeone is expected to start at centre-forward.