Steven Gerrard has hinted he could look to bring in a replacement for James Tavernier if the Rangers skipper’s knee injury requires a long-term lay-off.
Gers overcame a chaotic Europa League clash with Royal Antwerp to claim a thrilling 4-3 win on Thursday night – but the result was blighted by the sight of Tavernier and Kemar Roofe both limping off before half-time.
With the captain’s understudy Nathan Patterson self-isolating after breaching Covid-19 rules, centre-half Leon Balogun was forced to take over at right-back.
Gerrard is happy for the Nigeria international to fill in there for the next few weeks as Tavernier recovers.
The 29-year-old will have an MRI scan over the weekend to assess the knee injury he sustained in a clash with Martin Hongla.
But if the worst-case scenario transpires, Gerrard suggested he could look to do an “emergency” deal to bring in cover, presumably with a free agent.
“We’ll see what the scan shows in how long James will miss,” said the Ibrox boss. “He will obviously miss the next few for sure.
“But I would have no issue playing Leon there. When we recruited Leon we were aware he could play centre-back or right-back.
“He did that in his German days. He’s an experienced player and knows how we play so he can certainly do a job there.
“We’ve also got Ryan Jack who has played right-back previously too. We want to keep Jacko where he is, we’d be reluctant to push him back and that’s the same with Glen Kamara or Scott Arfield.
“So we do have options. They are not the ideal options so Leon is more ready for it. He’s got the physical capabilities of being able to adapt to play there.
“At the same time, we might look outside and see what news comes back in terms of James’ injury. We might have to look at an emergency situation there.
“But at the moment I’m happy to go with Leon.
“In terms of James, it’s an area of the knee where this could be days, it could be weeks but it could be longer than that.
“We just have to wait and see what the outcome is. I don’t think any doctor can use their hands on this and tell you an exact date of return. We need a positive outcome in terms of the scan.
“Depending on if it’s days and weeks, we won’t do anything. If it’s anything more severe than that, we might have to go in and look on the outside for an emergency situation.”
Roofe also had to be replaced just before half-time after suffering a recurrence of his recent calf issues.
But Gerrard is hopeful his lay-off will be limited to days and weeks rather than months.
He said: “In Kemar’s situation we’ve got big numbers at the top end of the pitch.
“We have Scott Wright raring to go. He’s ready. Ryan Kent came on and played well last night but he’s had a rest.
“We have Joe Aribo playing up a line and Ianis Hagi. We’ve got Greg Stewart and Jermain Defoe so I’m more than happy that Kemar will recover from this injury and get back in maybe two or three weeks all being well.”
Gerrard was delighted to see his team twice fight back from Antwerp taking the lead to claim a famous first-leg win in Flanders.
He was also critical of his side’s defending but is willing to give them some slack after the Europa League’s winter hiatus.
“To be fair to the lads we’ve had a big gap since we last played in Europe,” he said. “It’s a different level in terms of quality, intensity and the speed of the game.
“It’s also a different level if you are not perfect in terms of your organisation and shape, if you make a mistake, you will get punished for it.
“So I think it was a bit of a welcome back to the Europa League level for us as a squad.
“I think we’ll be better next Thursday for that and we’ll also be better for it at the weekend as I think it’s only natural that it takes time to get back up to speed as it’s such a different level from what we’re used to domestically.”