Michael Beale will play his strongest Rangers side against Championship outfit Raith Rovers in Sunday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final tie as he bids to keep the trophy in Govan.
After beating Kilmarnock 3-1 at home in the cinch Premiership last Saturday, the Gers boss kept the same starting line-up for the trip to Hibernian on Wednesday night and arguably the best performance since the former QPR boss took over from Giovanni van Bronckhorst last November was rewarded with a comprehensive 4-1 win.
Beale wants to keep the momentum going at Ibrox against the Kirkcaldy outfit as he pushes for Rangers – nine points behind Viaplay Cup winners Celtic at the top of the table – to finish the season on a high.
“It will be the strongest team possible for the game,” said the former Gers assistant coach, who revealed striker Kemar Roofe has had minor surgery to fix a hip problem and will join attacker Tom Lawrence, who went under the knife to correct an Achilles issue, on the sidelines for the rest of the season.
“One or two bumps and bruises but nothing major. The boys have had a couple of days’ recovery so we will train tomorrow and make our mind up on the team.
“Ridvan Yilmaz, John Souttar and Leon King are all available for selection as well so it is a difficult decision to cut from 21 to 18 for the weekend.
“It will be the strongest team. It is a quarter-final, it is important.
“The team set a standard in the last couple of games. As long as there are no issues, it will be close to those two teams who started and the other boys will have to fight in training to earn their minutes and if the game allows, we will give people minutes but this is a quarter-final so we are giving it the respect it deserves.
“We won the trophy last year so there has been an extra focus probably since pre-season.
“It is something that we want to retain. It is the last game of the season as well.
“We want to get to Hampden, firstly for a semi-final and then push on to the final and ultimately our aim is to win the competition.”
Lawrence, signed from Derby, has not made an appearance for Rangers since August in a 4-0 win over Ross County, while Roofe, whose season has been disrupted by various injuries, scored in his last appearance against Livingston last month.
Beale said: “Unfortunately, Tom Lawrence had another operation, a minor operation, which means he will be back in pre-season.
“Tom is a player that I really wanted to work with, a player that I knew as a young kid playing against my Liverpool (youth team) when he was at Manchester United and I followed his career.
“He is an international, he started the season ever so well and showed up well and then had a problem with his Achilles.
“He tried to come back. He was training on his own but had some discomfort so he went to see the specialist and it hadn’t repaired the way he wanted and has had a minor operation and he will be back in time for pre-season.
“I will add on that, Kemar Roofe has had a minor operation, he will be back for pre-season as well.
“The decision was taken that, with a short amount of league games left, that it is better to get these boys ready for the new campaign and they will be important players for us, come pre-season, for sure.”
Midfielder Steven Davis (knee) and defender Filip Helander (foot) remain out.