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Jul 31, 2021 at 1.30pm UK
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Preview: Rangers vs. Livingston - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Rangers vs. Livingston - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Saturday's Scottish Premiership clash between Rangers and Livingston, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

The Scottish Premiership is back on Saturday and the 2021-22 campaign kicks off with champions Rangers looking to secure their first three points against Livingston, in front of 23,000 supporters at Ibrox.

Steven Gerrard's side will be aiming to retain their top-flight title for the first time in a decade, while the Lions are looking to improve on last season's sixth-placed finish.

Match preview

For the 55th time and for the first time in 11 years, Rangers climbed back to the summit of Scottish football and lifted the Premiership trophy, after a spectacular campaign last year.

The Gers became only the second team to go an entire league season undefeated – after Brendan Rodgers's Celtic side in 2016-17 – winning 32 and drawing six of their 38 top-flight matches. They also accumulated a staggering 102 points, exceeding the 100-point milestone in the Premiership for the first time in their 150-year history.

Gerrard was at the forefront of their success and the Liverpudlian was recognised for his achievements by receiving the SPFL Manager of the Year award.

Winning by such an extreme margin for a second successive season will be challenging but Gerrard's main priority is to ensure they keep their Glaswegian rivals at bay and retain their top-flight crown, regardless of whether it is by a solitary point or a remarkable 25 as it was last year.

Rangers, who understandably head into the new season in high spirits, won two and drew two of their five pre-season friendlies this summer, including an impressive 2-1 victory at Ibrox against Spanish giants Real Madrid last weekend.

Second-half goals from summer signing Fashion Sakala and substitute Cedric Itten helped the Gers come from behind to secure the win and provide a major boost ahead of the start of their title defence.

Rangers will be full of confidence for Saturday's encounter against Livingston, a team they have beaten in 10 of the last 11 meetings and have kept clean sheets in each of their last seven games against them.

Gerrard urged his players to leave a legacy behind and create more history before lifting the title last season, and that message is sure to be addressed to his squad once again this year, as they aim to extend their dominance at the top of Scottish football.

Livingston head into the new season hoping that they can get off to a much better start than they did 12 months ago. The Lions won just three of their opening 15 matches in the top-flight and were languishing in 11th place when Gary Holt decided to step down as head coach.

David Martindale was appointed as his successor in November and he had an immediate impact at the club, as the Lions went on a 14-game unbeaten run across all competitions. Martindale's men eventually finished the season in sixth place and accumulated 45 points from their 38 matches, their highest top-flight total since their promotion in 2018.

Livi also came close to winning their second major piece of silverware, but they fell short in the League Cup final, losing 1-0 to St Johnstone at Hampden Park.

Their dreams of cup glory in this season's competition, however, remain alive despite an inconsistent start in the group stages. After beating Highland League outfit Brechin City 3-0 in their first match, they then suffered a surprise 2-1 defeat away at League One side Alloa Athletic.

A 6-5 victory on penalties against Raith Rovers and a 3-1 home win over Cowdenbeath in their final two games helped them to sneak into the second round on goal difference, where they will face St Mirren in a few weeks' time.

With four of their opening six Premiership fixtures against teams that finished in the top four last season, Martindale is aware that they will need to be on top of their game if they are to start their league campaign brightly, though their task against champions Rangers on Sunday could not be any tougher.

Livingston have failed to score in nine of their last 10 meetings against the Gers, including all four last season, and if they can claim any points at Ibrox, it will be considered a bonus.

Rangers form (all competitions):
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • D
  • W

Livingston form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W

Team News

Rangers pair Joe Aribo and Kemar Roofe, who have missed the last two pre-season friendlies, are in contention to feature on Saturday, though they are not expected to start the game.

Following his involvement with Colombia in the Copa America and a two-week spell in his hometown of Cerete, Alfredo Morelos is currently in self-isolation due to COVID-19 regulations and is highly unlikely to feature for the Gers this weekend, or in their Champions League third-round qualifier on Tuesday.

Midfielder Nnamdi Ofoborh, who joined from Bournemouth this summer, is not able to play due to a minor heart condition, while Ryan Jack remains out with a long-term calf injury.

Gerrard may name a similar lineup to the one that started against Real Madrid last weekend, which could see new recruits John Lundstram and Sakala keep their places in midfield and up front respectively.

As for Livingston, Martindale has no injury concerns heading to Ibrox and is set to continue with a 4-3-3 formation which he has used throughout their League Cup campaign so far.

Right-back Nicky Devlin could return to the side at the expense of Jack McMillan, while summer signings Ayo Obileye and Tom Parkes could partner each other in the heart of the defence.

Martindale may also decide to name an attacking trio of new recruits, as Cristian Montano and Andrew Shinnie – who have joined from Port Vale and Charlton respectively – could play alongside striker Bruce Anderson, who has made the switch from Aberdeen.

Rangers possible starting lineup:
McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic; Lundstram, Davies, Kamara; Hagi, Sakala, Kent

Livingston possible starting lineup:
Stryjek; Devlin, Fitzwater, Parkes, Longridge; Holt, Pitman, Sibbard; Shinnie, Anderson, Montano

We say: Rangers 3-0 Livingston

After an invincible league campaign last year as well as an impressive record against Saturday's opponents, Rangers will be strong favourites to secure all three points in their opening fixture.

The hosts may be missing their star striker Morelos, but they still have plenty of attacking options to choose from and should have no problems in claiming a comfortably victory at Ibrox.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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