Gerrard defends Rangers players over early-season form

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has defended his players in the wake of a stuttering start to their Scottish Premiership title defence.

Rangers have dropped nine points in their first 11 league fixtures, just three fewer than they dropped in the whole of last season on their way to winning the title.

The champions still top the table and have been beaten just once, but their latest setback – a 2-2 home draw with Aberdeen – gives Celtic the chance to go above them with victory over Livingston on Saturday before Rangers visit Motherwell the following day.

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Motherwell manager Graeme Alexander looks ahead to Sunday’s clash with Rangers, live on Sky Sports

But Gerrard rejected suggestions his players had failed to bounce back from disappointments.

Gerrard said: “From the inside, I see a group of boys that are willing to work hard and fight as hard as they can.

“It’s an absolute pleasure to work with a team that’s lost one league game in 50. I haven’t heard or seen that written on the outside. So I think sometimes it’s a case of perception.

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Gerrard says tributes to Walter Smith have been ‘very fitting’ after the former Rangers manager passed away this week at the age of 73

“But I believe there’s a lot of fight, a lot of characters and a lot of good players in my group and I have every belief and confidence that we can move forward.

“Yes, we have issues to fix and address. Yes, we have had some setbacks and challenging times, fixtures and results together. I always like to be honest.”

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Highlights from Ibrox as Rangers recovered from 2-0 down to draw against Aberdeen and remain top of the Scottish Premiership

Rangers have conceded the first goal in a game eight times this season, and midfielder Ianis Hagi said: “Obviously it’s a stat that we are not proud of, but we are working on it and clean sheets are something that we expect every single game.

“We are working on it but this is football sometimes, you are challenged. Whatever the challenge, you have to step up and try to overcome it.

“Hopefully from now on, we will have more clean sheets and get some more goals.”

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