Rangers manager Michael Beale has been speaking to the assembled press ahead of the Scottish Cup quarter-final against Raith Rovers.

Here is everything he had to say.

How is your squad for Sunday?

It will be the strongest team possible for the game. One or two bumps and bruises but nothing major. The boys have had a couple of days of recovery so we’ll train tomorrow and then make our minds up on the team. Ridvan, John Souttar and Leon King are all available for selection as well so it’s a difficult decision to cut that from 21 to 18 at the weekend.

How do you balance giving players minutes who haven’t had game time with the pressures of getting through the tie?

It will be the strongest team, it’s a quarter-final. The team set a standard for the last couple of games the boys that have started so as long as there are no issues it’ll be close to those two teams and the other boys will have to fight in training to earn their minutes. If the game allows we’ll give people minutes but this is a quarter-final so we’re giving it the respect that it deserves.

Is there an extra focus on the Scottish Cup given your league position and the League Cup final?

Yeah, of course. We won the trophy last year so there’s been an extra focus on this competition probably back to pre-season. It’s something that you want to retain. It’s the last game of this season as well so we want to get to Hampden firstly for the semi-final and then push on to the final and ultimately our aim is to win the competition. It’s really important to us. It’s important that the group continue to show improvement.

Could we see Antonio Colak and Fashion Sakala pairing up again this weekend?

I think for Antonio he was injured before I came in and since I came back in he’s been fighting for fitness. He had a period where he was coming back and got injured again. He’s played bit parts here and there but I think he’s had four starts since I came back and three goals and a couple of assists. Certainly, in the last week, he’s looked sharp. His energy and his personality on the pitch have been seen and Fashion works off him. I thought the front three were excellent the other night, as was the midfield. There wasn’t a bad performance in our team and I think if you’ve got the shirt it’s right you keep it. Before Alfredo had the shirt and was doing well but in this moment right now it would be very harsh on Antonio if we were to take him out.

Is that a difficult conversation to have with Alfredo?

Not really, no. I think he understands it. He’s a number 9 and he knows he can play in both and take Fashion out but it wouldn’t be fair on Fashion either so it’s a nice place to be. We’ve not always had those options this season and now we do. They have to fight it out in training and when they get minutes they have to own the shirt. That’s a nice place for me to be in having competition. Sometimes that can be a big driver for the players in terms of their standards.

What would you like to reduce the squad size to in the summer?

If you have two 10s so a double on every outfield position, that gives you 20. You’d like an extra striker, possibly if you want to play three at the back, an extra centre half. That gives you 22/23 plus goalkeepers. The reason the squad’s been slightly larger is that we’ve had players out on loan and we’ve players out with long-term injuries and the club’s had to go out and sign replacements. The squad’s large at the minute, I think the budget is very healthy for us as a club, it’s just obviously spread out a little bit. This summer, like any window, to make some decisions to trim the squad a bit and at the same time add competition because if you lower the number you add the competition and the quality goes up. Coming out of the January window we had one player leave in young Charlie McCann who went down to play in England and we brought Nico Raskin and Todd Cantwell in. I think every game that goes you’re seeing good decisions and they’re getting fitter and stronger. Neither had played for a couple of months before coming into the club so we needed them to get up to speed with their teammates, with the style and the ideas and I think in the games they’ve played they’ve both shown a lot of promise. We need to go and do that again in the summer and into next winter. Every window we want to do that, be moving forward. It’s not like I want to kick anybody out the door, it’s just I want to bring the numbers in line with what I think’s more manageable.

Has Ryan Kent told you he wants to stay at the club?

We’ve had discussions around it and we’ve both parked everything until we’ve found a moment. The next moment will be during the next international break when we’ll sit and have another chat. We’re both cool, we’re both on the same page and I think it’s right after the amount of years he’s been here and the changes with his third manager here as well that he takes time to consider his options. It’s the same time that we do as well. We’ve not put anything in front of him, we’ve just had conversations. At this moment in time, that’s the best place to be. Is Ryan Kent playing very well at this moment in time? Yes, so there’s no issue. We just keep moving forward, I’m still building the squad that I want for next year and if he’s in it’s because he desperately wants to be here. If he’s out it’s because he didn’t so it’s quite clear in that sense. Our relationship will always remain the same. It’s a young boy that I saw at the start of his journey so I’m quite proud of what he’s achieved so far in his career.

READ MORE: The key Rangers components behind emphatic Hibs win

Does the performance on Wednesday night change your thinking on players for next season?

No. Listen I’m really clear on the decisions, I’m just not going to communicate them until the summer when we feel the time’s right. The decisions in my head and I’ve communicated them where I need to, are made.

Will the international break give you time to speak to all the players who are out of contract?

My door’s always open. They can come and speak to me. No one seems to be in a difficult place or has a lack of clarity at the minute. Everyone seems to be happy and playing well. Our form has been really, really strong and our performances in the last couple of games, certainly the first half of the Kilmarnock game and pretty much the whole game the other night were really strong performances so I just take it off of that. I’ve got four or five waiting on the side that are chomping at the bit to get into the team so I’m in a good place at the moment.

Can I ask about Tom Lawrence who’s had some disappointing news?

Unfortunately, Tom Lawrence had another operation which means he’ll be back in pre-season. He’s a player that I really wanted to work with. He’s a player that I knew as a young player playing against my Liverpool team when he was at Man United and I’ve followed his career. He’s an international and started the season ever so well and showed up well then he had this problem with his Achilles. He tried to come back, he was out training on his own but had some discomfort so went to see the specialist and it hadn’t repaired how we wanted so he’s had a little minor operation and will be back in time for pre-season. I’ll add on that as well, Kemar Roofe has had a minor operation, he’ll be back for pre-season as well. The decision was taken with the short amount of league games left it was better to get these boys ready for a new campaign and they’ll be important players for us come pre-season.

What was Kemar’s operation?

His hip.

How much does the League Cup disappointment fuel the desire to lift the Scottish Cup?

We have to play in all the competitions we’re in. This season has given some disappointment but in the Scottish Cup, none of that counts. What counts is that we have a quarter-final on the weekend at home. A home draw in a quarter-final is a favourable draw for Rangers and we just need to make sure we’re at our best and we get ourselves back to Hampden for a semi-final. There’s no hangover, I don’t think that’s healthy. I just think we have to be focused on retaining this trophy. I think if we play to our true level then we’ve got a really good chance of doing that.

Is that a message to the out-of-contract players to leave their mark in this competition?

I think every game at the minute we’re evolving, we’re working on a number of things in training to evolve and grow in different ways. You’ve seen it really go well at certain moments, in midweek and at other moments you’ve seen it be a bit indifferent but we’re focused on the work and where we’re going in the future. In the short-term future, there’s how many league games left and the Scottish Cup. Every game counts here, it’s not like we can skip one. We’re not allowed to do that and that’s right. We’re in a really privileged position and every time we play we have to uphold that. If someone comes off it then I’m trying to add competition that someone goes in. John Lundstram doesn’t like being out of the team at the moment, Alfredo’s not the happiest man in the world because the other guys are scoring. That’s how competition should be. John Souttar wants to get back in, Ridvan wants to chase Borna down and then there’s Glen Kamara, Malik is in and around it as well coming back and we know how strong he was playing, Ianis is coming back from a long-term injury. We’ve got a lot of players who don’t want the end of the season because they want to get their legs up and running.

Do you need to win this trophy to show you’re on the right path?

It would be the right way because it’s the Scottish Cup and we want to retain it. At the moment, I think the way that we’re playing, why wouldn’t we be confident? Let’s get past this game at the weekend.

How does it feel to play cup games straight after league games?

It feels like most of the games that we’ve played have been like cup games. We’ve had to win every one, that’s what it’s like at Rangers. The away games have been a little bit more exciting than the home games at Ibrox because the other teams have come and tried to attack us and try to win the game. Fair play to Partick Thistle in the last round, I didn’t think they came to sit back, they got the penalty off the VAR and it was quite an eventful evening. I’m hoping for a slightly less controversial afternoon on Sunday and let’s just get to a semi-final. Every game here we have to win so every game is like that. It’s on a knife edge and that’s just what being at a big club is like. It’s not acceptable for us to draw and it’s certainly not acceptable for us to lose games.

What are you expecting from Raith?

They’ve lost one in ten games so they’re in good form. It was the last game they lost so maybe that’s a motivation for them this week in terms of their training. I’m sure Ian’s getting into them. Obviously, he played for the club and secondly the warning’s there, they beat Motherwell 3-1 in the last round so the warning is there for us.

How did you rate the balance of the midfield on Wednesday night, particularly Nico and Todd?

I thought Ryan Kent was essential to the midfield because they didn’t know where to pick Ryan up and it gave space to Nico and Todd and vice versa when they went after Todd it gave space to Ryan. Ryan Jack was excellent, Connor Goldson doing overlaps down the wing, that wasn’t part of the plan but the big un’ was enjoying it and he scored on the night, I reminded him of that yesterday. They’re playing well, it’s early in their Rangers careers. There is a lot of opinion 360 that’ll come their way. At the moment their favouring good opinions so I would say to them, ‘Enjoy it while it lasts,’ because the first time they misplace a pass you guys will be going for them. I’m pleased with both young men, they get on off the pitch as well, they’ve brought a nice energy into the building and when the window opens, more like that, please.

Rangers Review:

Did you pick up on a spell of play between 50-70 minutes and is that something you feedback to the players?

I think this team are capable of more and doing it more often. Hibs were in a good place going into the game the other night but we played really well on the evening but obviously, this team beat Borussia Dortmund last year and Leipzig to get to a European final. In years before they beat teams like Porto, Feyenoord and PSV so we have to put it in context. Every game’s different and the level of opponent you play against but you can only play the next game and going into the game at Hibs, the outside observers would’ve thought it would’ve been an interesting evening for us and we performed ever so well on the night. It’s just three points and I want nothing less in terms of the standard of performance this weekend. It’ll be a completely different challenge. They’ll come and they’ll sit deep and make life difficult for us which makes the game slower. Two teams play the game and if Raith come and have a go that’ll give us more space to play into so the game becomes faster for example. If Fashion’s running into space and Ryan is. If they come and sit back then we’ll have to be patient and find a way of playing closer together. Every game’s different, I think the two games we played in Edinburgh recently, fair play to Hearts and Hibs, they came and really tried to face us head-on and it made for two excellent games of football.

You’ve been working on a change of shape, what does that look like and what players might that benefit?

Not at this moment in time but if you watched the game the other night there’ll be some patterns in that game that will emerge. I’ll let you do that because I know you like that side of it. Every time you change or move the goalposts a little bit in terms of ideas it shuffles the pack a little bit. I think I can get more out of this Rangers squad right now and also I think I can recruit into it interestingly in the summer and next winter and just keep making us stronger all the time. They’ve shown over 17 games a level of consistency to win 15 and draw one and only lose one of those 17 games but it’s important within that we recognise the moments we were really good and the moments where we were just okay and what team are we going to be moving forward.