Steven Gerrard insists he will take no chances with James Tavernier’s fitness as he weighs up whether to plunge the Rangers skipper back into action in next week’s Old Firm Scottish Cup showdown.
The captain has not featured since injuring knee ligaments against Royal Antwerp back in February.
But the right-back is pushing for a recall and is keen to make his return when Gers welcome bitter rivals Celtic to Ibrox for the last 16-clash.
However, Gerrard, who is still waiting to hear if the game will be moved with next Saturday’s scheduled date now clashing with the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, does not want to risk Tavernier suffering further damage by rushing him back too soon.
The Light Blues boss – after watching his team make it a perfect 17 Premiership home wins this season with a 2-1 victory over Hibernian – said: “James has again had a good couple of days since we last spoke and he’s pushing hard to be involved at the weekend.
“We’ll only do that if he is ready, we won’t force that. He’s been out too long for us to force that.
“He’ll have to show this week that there’s more progression and get him out amongst the team at some point if he’s to earn a place in the squad.”
Gerrard suffered a further injury blow this week when Leon Balogun picked up an ankle knock, while admits he is still waiting for an update from Ryan Jack’s trip to see a top London specialist about his calf complaint.
It means Nathan Patterson is likely to start against Celtic but he has no concerns about that having seen the Scotland Under-21 ace edge out Hibs prospect Josh Doig.
Gerrard – whose team won thanks to goals from Joe Aribo and Ryan Kent before Kevin Nisbet grabbed a late consolation strike for Hibs – said: “I thought Nathan was outstanding today. I was fascinated with that battle down our right-hand side. I thought Nathan was really good. I think Doig is a good player again with huge potential.
“Both lads put in a real strong shift, I thought Nathan just edged it I must say. But Hibs have got a real good player on their hands.
“I enjoyed it. Two honest kids with huge potential and the future is looking bright for Scotland in terms of full-backs because I think those two have got real big chances of going all the way.
“We deserved to take the lead. Joe controls his finish really well and then Ryan has obviously scored a world-class goal. It’s another contender for goal of the year.”
But Jack Ross was frustrated with Don Robertson after the referee harshly booked Martin Boyle for diving before ruling out a Ryan Porteous goal following a foul on Filip Helander.
He said: “I got the opportunity to see (the disallowed goal) before I come and speak, and it’s not a foul. Some decisions go for you, some don’t. But I don’t think anybody watching it would think it’s a foul.
“And as for Boyle’s booking, we have to be careful we don’t think, ‘if it’s not a penalty, it’s a yellow card’.
“He shouldn’t (get a reputation for diving). I will defend him because of how quickly he moves with the ball. I’ve no argument with the decision not to award a penalty. I just think we’ve got to be careful we don’t think it has to be one or the other.”