AFTER missing the last four Premiership games through suspension for picking up five red cards this season, Alfredo Morelos will return to the Rangers squad this weekend. The Rangers top scorer, who was recently nominated for the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award, has been one of the best players at Ibrox this season but a return to the starting lineup is far from guaranteed.

With Morelos suspended, Jermain Defoe has been given a run of games in Steven Gerrard’s starting XI which has coincided with Rangers’ best run of league form this season. For only the second time this season, Rangers have strung together four consecutive Premiership wins, and they’ve managed to do so without their talismanic striker.

No-one is doubting the 22-year-old’s ability, but his temperament has raised questions over whether or not he can be fully trusted on the pitch. Now that he’s back and available for selection, should he walk straight back into the first team?

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There is only one spot available in Gerrard’s side for either Morelos or Defoe to occupy and when we look purely at each striker’s goal return, the data suggest that Defoe should get the nod ahead of the Colombian at present. Defoe has the league’s highest goals per 90 minutes rate for any player to have played at least 500 minutes in the league this season with 0.76. Morelos isn’t too far behind with an impressive return of 0.69 goals per 90, but there is no doubting that Defoe is providing more in this regard.

Of course, these figures don’t always tell the full story. It could simply be the case that Defoe has been presented with better opportunities than Morelos, and that’s why is goalscoring rate is so high. But if we look at each forward’s expected goals (xG), then we gain a clearer insight into the sort of chances each striker has been offered.

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Both Defoe and Morelos have a remarkably similar xG; Defoe’s sits at 0.63 per 90 minutes, while Morelos is slightly behind with 0.61. This means, broadly speaking, that the two players are being given the same number clear-cut goalscoring opportunities in each game that they play.

We can compare a striker’s xG/90 to their goals per 90 to see if a particular player is over or under performing in front of goal. If a forward has a higher goals per 90 than their xG/90, then they’re taking more chances than they reasonably ought to and can be said to be over performing. Conversely, if their goals per 90 is lower than their xG/90, then they should probably be doing a little better in front of goal.

Both Morelos and Defoe are overperforming by this metric. Morelos is scoring 0.08 more goals per 90 minutes that he reasonably shouldn’t be, but Defoe is doing even better in this regard: the on-loan Bournemouth striker is converting 0.13 chances per 90 minutes more than he should.

These differences between this figures might seem minute, but it reveals a pattern. Both players are in good form, but Defoe is performing slightly better than his team-mate. Both in the chances that he’s taking and his goal rate on the pitch, Defoe has the edge over Morelos.

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The graphic above highlights some of the most important attributes for a striker in the modern game and there are a few things that catch the eye. Firstly, Defoe is a better finisher than Morelos: Defoe hits fewer shots than the Colombian - and with greater accuracy - yet is providing more goals per game.

While Defoe (0.22) has a higher assist rate than Morelos (0.12), it should be noted that the two players have identical figures when it comes to the number of shot assists they provide their team-mates. This suggests that while Defoe has more assists to his name, Morelos can maybe feel a little unlucky. They’re setting up the same amount of chances for their team-mates, but the chances Defoe has created have ended up in the back of the net. Morelos can hardly be blamed for another player’s profligacy in front of goal.

Unsurprisingly, given Defoe’s age, the Englishman doesn’t attempt nearly as many dribbles as Morelos, although it should be pointed out that Defoe rarely gives the ball away when he does so. 80.8% of the 35-year-old’s dribbles are successful compared to Morelos’ 62%. However, Morelos is far superior when it comes to carrying the ball far up the pitch. A progressive run is a dribble where the player carries the ball at least 10 yards forward and Morelos averages twice as many of these than Defoe does.

HeraldScotland:

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The decision Gerrard faces this Sunday is undoubtedly a tricky one, but the ex-Liverpool player will take comfort from the fact that he has two excellent options to choose from. It’s the sort of selection headache that managers love to have. But when it comes down to choosing one player over the other, the answer will ultimately depend on how Gerrard wants his side to play against Hibernian.

If Gerrard simply wants a goalscorer, someone to loiter in the opposition box and take chances when they arise, then the data suggests that Defoe is the clear and obvious choice. However, if Gerrard wants his striker to be more involved in the build-up then Morelos should get the nod, given the Colombian’s superior ability at carrying the ball forward. Both players have their strengths and weaknesses, and as a result Morelos’ place at the head of the Rangers attack is under threat for the first time in nearly two seasons.