THE flickering hope that Rangers had of winning the Premiership title this term has now been extinguished. In a matter of days, Celtic will secure eight-in-a-row and in a couple of weeks Steven Gerrard will end his first season as a boss empty-handed.

Defeat at Parkhead on Sunday wasn’t unexpected, but it was hugely frustrating for Gerrard given the self-inflicted damage and the manner in which Rangers lost having done so much to haul themselves back into it.

Gerrard and his players don’t have time to feel sorry for themselves, however. Matches with Hearts and Motherwell this week will round off the pre-split fixture schedule, while important games will follow once the remaining five ties are confirmed.

Here are some of the issues that Gerrard has to consider and contend with before Rangers head into the summer and regroup for a second shot at Europe and domestic success.

FIND A WAY TO WIN WITHOUT ALFREDO MORELOS

The loss of their 29-goal forward in the first half at Parkhead gave Rangers a mountain to climb and it was a task that ultimately proved beyond Gerrard’s side. Given their improvement after the break, Rangers could arguably have won the game if they had a full compliment of players and a focal point to their attack.

Morelos’ latest moment of madness will rule him out of the Hearts and Motherwell games and he will also miss a further two matches before the end of the season. Given how reliant Rangers are on the Colombian, that is a real issue for Gerrard.

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The goals that Morelos has scored this term have been crucial for the Gers. He hasn’t had enough back-up from the rest of the forward line, while Kyle Lafferty hasn’t been able to find any real scoring form.

It is Jermain Defoe that is likely to get the nod, initially at least, while Morelos sits in the stand and the veteran forward must now make the most of his chance. Five goals so far is not a bad return, but a couple more would help convince fans he should be integral to the team next term.

MAKE SURE RANGERS FINISH SECOND

With their title dreams over, Rangers have to ensure they are best of the rest behind their Old Firm rivals this term and avoid an unwanted hat-trick of third-place berths.

Aberdeen finished above the Gers in the last two years but it is Kilmarnock that pose the biggest threat now after they moved to within six points with a 5-0 thumping of Hamilton Accies at the weekend.

With seven games left, that gap should be enough for Rangers but with another trip to Rugby Park to come, Gerrard’s side can take nothing for granted in the top flight.

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The debate about what progress Rangers have made this term will continue regardless of their finish, but the perception of Gerrard would be diminished if second isn’t secured.

DECIDE ON THE FUTURES OF HIS FRINGE PLAYERS

Gerrard may not make the same sweeping changes to his squad this time around, but it will still be a busy summer of ins and outs at Ibrox as the 38-year-old prepares for his second season in the dugout.

A host of players are either out of contract or out of favour and the likes of Wes Foderingham, Lee Wallace, Gareth McAuley and Graham Dorrans will move on. Jordan Rossiter will return from Bury but still has much to prove, while Jon Flanagan, Borna Barisic and Eros Grezda haven’t impressed this term.

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The deals for first team starters will be the most important ones that Gerrard completes, but the squad undoubtedly needs improving overall and there will be a natural evolution during the close season.

GIVE THE YOUTH A CHANCE IN THE FIRST TEAM

One way of adding to the squad for no financial outlay is to bring players through the ranks at the Hummel Training Centre and Rangers need their investment, both in time and money, in their Academy to pay off.

Gerrard has involved a host of up-and-coming talents in first team sessions this term, while Stephen Kelly and Serge Atakayi have been on the bench. Glenn Middleton started brightly but has struggled for chances in the second half of the campaign.

A number of the most promising kids – such as Robby McCrorie, Zak Rudden and Andy Dallas – are out on loan but Gerrard could look to involve more youngsters in the closing weeks to gauge their progression.

FINALISE PRE-SEASON PLANS AND MOVE ON TRANSFERS

Rangers may still have seven games to play this term but one eye will be cast towards a crucial summer transfer window and preparation plans ahead of the European qualifiers.

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Gerrard brought the squad back early to give him as much time as possible with his players and a continental training camp is being finalised, once again with a mid-June start.

The deal for Jordan Jones has been completed, while others for Jake Hastie and Greg Stewart could follow. Once again, Rangers need to get the majority of their business done early and hit the ground running at home and abroad.