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Gers will be fired up for Europa test, vows Gerrard

Rangers v FC Midtjylland, Europa League Qualifying 3rd Rd, 2nd Leg, Ibrox, Tonight, 7.45pm (Agg: 4-2)

Promising: Steven Gerrard is pleased with Rangers’ form
Promising: Steven Gerrard is pleased with Rangers’ form

By Andy Newport

Steven Gerrard says Celtic's Champions League exit should be a warning to his Rangers squad.

The Hoops saw their group stage hopes crumble after suffering a shock 4-3 defeat to Romanian champions Cluj at Parkhead.

Gers have Europa League ambitions to focus on and will now look to complete the job against Midtjylland tonight.

Last week's 4-2 victory in Denmark has put the Light Blues in the driving seat but Gerrard wants his men to take note of Celtic's fate and take appropriate action.

He said: "What (Tuesday) shows is that European ties are never over, even when you get a positive result in the first leg.

"Some of these teams that people don't know much about - Cluj from Romania, for example, or Midtjylland from Denmark - they carry a huge threat.

"They're so desperate for financial reasons to progress, like most of us, so my players need to take note and make sure we deal with our second leg much better."

Celtic's damaging defeat to Dan Petrescu's side has dented hopes of Scotland's European representatives being able to enter at a later stage.

With Scotland 20th in Uefa's ranking system, Gers and fellow Europa League competitors Aberdeen and Kilmarnock were all forced to kick off at the first qualifying round stage this season, as were Celtic in the continent's premier competition.

A rise to 17th could yet see the top two in this year's Ladbrokes Premiership start at the second qualifying round stage next term, and Gerrard - whose side go to East Fife in the second round of the League Cup on Sunday - admits it is crucial the country's top sides do their bit in Europe.

He said: "It's certainly going to be detrimental because all the Scottish teams need to do as well as we can to improve the coefficient and give ourselves an advantage in these European competitions. From that aspect (Celtic's defeat) is very disappointing.

"But for me, I'm the manager of Rangers and my focus is on that and the challenges that face us."

Gers raced 3-0 up in Herning last week before a brief six-minute wobble allowed Midtjylland to pull two back. Scott Arfield restored their advantage to two goals and Gerrard now expects his men to finish the job at Ibrox.

Gerrard - whose side go in buoyant after beating Hibs 6-1 on Sunday - said: "We have to take a 0-0 mentality. Everything is to play for and I want to see a hungry performance.

"This team has had so much criticism over the past 14 months about not being consistent and taking the foot off the gas at important times.

"(Tonight) is a good test from a mental view. I don't want to see a casual team thinking that because it has a two-goal advantage that the job is done. That won't be the case.

"I've not had to stress that because Midtjylland deserve respect and the players know that at times last week they caused us problems. They carry a huge threat and it would be very immature and naive of us to think that this is done. But could we be going in to the game in any better form? No. The players are smiling and enjoying their training.

"There are still improvements to come from this side, for sure. Players are still finding their feet."

Meanwhile, Leicester midfielder Andy King is set to seal a season-long loan switch to Rangers.

Belfast Telegraph


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