Steven Gerrard has hinted Alfredo Morelos may have to wait for his Rangers return after stressing he will show loyalty to the players who have stepped up during the Colombian’s suspension.
Morelos was handed a four-game ban after aiming an elbow at Celtic skipper Scott Brown during the Old Firm derby in March.
But the absence of their top-scorer has not slowed Rangers’ attack, with Gerrard’s team racking up 11 goals while cruising to four straight victories.
Jermain Defoe has stepped into Morelos’ shoes while the 29-goal striker was confined to a seat in the stand and Gerrard suggested the veteran Englishman could again get the nod when the Light Blues host Hibernian on Sunday.
Asked if he had a major headache on his hands deciding who to start up front, he said: “We have a big squad here and it is quite healthy at the moment, so people are pushing for people’s positions in the team all over the pitch.
“That’s my job and that’s what I get paid to do is to make big decisions. But I am certainly one who will be loyal to players.
“In any area of the team, if you play well, then you deserve to keep the shirt unless we have got a very, very busy schedule where we need to manage and offload, you keep the shirt and that’s the message I have been drilling since day one and I don’t think I will ever change.
“I always try to take myself back to when I played and when you judge yourself and you self-reflect, the first question you ask as you are coming off the pitch is ‘did I do enough to start in the next game’?
“So I will always be loyal to players in that situation.”
If Morelos does return, Gerrard hopes the last four weeks will have taught the 22-year-old a valuable lesson.
“Alfredo doesn’t really hide his frustration well when he’s suspended or missing games because he loves playing football,” the former Liverpool and England midfielder said.
“You have to drag him off the training pitch at times, so I’m sure he’s learned a lot over the last four weeks.
“Hopefully we will see that from now to the end of the season, if and when he’s given an opportunity.
“Discipline is a word that’s come up a lot in our press conferences and we have been damaged, whether it be through injury or suspension, by not having key players available at key times.
“The message to the whole team, not just Alfredo, is we want them to be aggressive and strong but in the right way as it’s important we keep 11 players on the pitch and give ourselves the best chance of being successful.”
Rangers have failed in three attempts this season to get one over on Hibs and midfielder Scott Arfield knows his team will again not have it easy against a side still unbeaten in the Ladbrokes Premiership since head coach Paul Heckingbottom took over.
“They have done great since their new manager came in,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of them and they’ve been fantastic.”