Rangers icon Brian Laudrup is convinced the talismanic qualities of star man Alfredo Morelos will galvanise his former club in their title fight with Celtic.
The Colombian was at his thrilling best as he bagged a brace in the 5-0 romp over Hearts that settled the nerves after a week to forget.
Morelos was on international duty for the 3-3 draw with Ross County and the chastening 3-0 defeat that saw Celtic leapfrog the champions at the top of the Premiership.
And Laudrup is under no doubts that Morelos will be vital if his former team are able to beat Ange Postecoglou’s side to the title.
“His performance against Hearts proved he is irreplaceable. When Morelos was called up by Colombia, we asked who could fill the gap he left. Would it be Cedric Itten, Kemar Roofe or Fashion Sakala?
“The answer, bluntly, was none of them. Not in terms of an individual performance level nor what it meant for the team.
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“There was more wrong with Rangers much more than just the absence of a single player in that embarrassing first half against Celtic last Wednesday night.
“But with Morelos back in the line-up, we saw a complete transformation in attacking play.
“His movement was excellent, as were his goals. You could also see the huge uplift in the players around him.
“To me, that is always the benchmark of a great striker. Morelos dragged his team-mates onto a far better level. He was different class. Talismanic. Right now, you cannot imagine Rangers playing without him and being successful.
“If Morelos can keep that level of performance, then Giovanni van Bronckhorst has a chance of seeing his side at the top of the Premiership come the end of the season. An injury to the Colombian would be a nightmare.
“Questions have been asked about Morelos’ attitude at certain times in the past, but it has been spot-on ever since Van Bronckhorst took charge. I think the 25-year-old will absolutely embrace the responsibility placed on him because he relishes the appreciation that comes with it.
“That level of importance brings an obvious question about his contract position in terms of longer-term planning at the club, as Morelos will be into his last 12 months at the end of this season.
“The issue will have to be addressed before long. For now, though, everything must be about pushing for this title and keeping the levels shown on Sunday.”
Laudrup retains real hope for his former team with Morelos back up top, however, the Danish wing king believes Postecoglou’s Celtic are the real deal.
And he has urged Gio van Bronckhorst and the Rangers to make sure they are in a position to strike before the sides meet again in April.
He added: “What Ange Postecoglou has done has been remarkable, really. His team can be breathtaking at times, but they have also shown proper consistency since the winter break. That’s a level Rangers have to try and reach.
“I think this title race will go to the wire. But Van Bronckhorst has to make sure a gap isn’t allowed to grow before Celtic come to Ibrox on April 4. Any drop to the levels seen at Parkhead or even against Ross County beforehand could be immensely damaging.
“I could hardly believe what I was watching in the Old Firm game.
“Celtic were excellent 100 per cent but Rangers were astonishingly bad in that first 45 minutes.
“You can always lose a derby game. Of course you can. Sometimes you go out to do your best and it just doesn’t happen.
“But an impression of lacking the necessary effort was the main theme last Wednesday night. Rangers knew they could get away from Celtic with a good result but they didn’t turn up.
“You can look at the personnel picked and at the performances of individual players. At the end of the day, though, it was a team that simply didn’t look ready for what was thrown at them by Celtic. There was a collective failure.”