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Rangers must find a higher gear to get past Legia Warsaw in Europa League: Gerrard

Legia Warsaw v Rangers, Europa League Play-Off First Leg, Polish Army Stadium, Tonight, 7.00pm

Confident: Steven Gerrard has total belief in his Gers players ahead of tonight’s Legia clash
Confident: Steven Gerrard has total belief in his Gers players ahead of tonight’s Legia clash
Ryan Kent is wanted by the Ibrox side

By Gavin McCafferty

Steven Gerrard insists Rangers are not scared by Legia Warsaw but he does admit it might take their best display of the season to battle past the Poles into the Europa League group stages.

The Ibrox men put on a dazzling display to knock out Danes Midtjylland in the last round of the competition.

But Gerrard confessed it might take an even better showing to shake off Legia and seal a return to the league phase they reached last year.

"We're not afraid of any Legia players," insisted Gerrard ahead of the first leg at the Polish Army Stadium tonight.

"We respect them all. We think they are a good team. They are a big club and a big name in European football, a team that is not conceding many goals.

"They have some exciting players in the final third. But I think the key to us reaching the group stages will be us maintaining the form we produced so far. If anything we might need to go up a level.

"If we do, I have confidence we will find the breakthrough.

"The important thing for us is to keep creating chances because we have players in good form, and whatever the test and the challenge in front of us, we always have confidence and belief we can go and strike when the time comes in the game."

Gerrard's team showed their mettle last year as they fought through four close ties to reach the group stages.

This year, Rangers have been able to put on a show, racking up 10 goals against St Joseph's then seven against Midtjylland either side of a straightforward victory over Progres Niederkorn.

But the manager admits his side may have to revive their gritty displays of 12 months ago to survive this time.

"I think it is very difficult to gauge and compare this test to previous tests since I have come into the club by comparing Legia to Maribor or to Ufa or to Osijek," he said.

"One thing is for sure, this will be a tough test and two close encounters over both ties.

"We have two good teams fighting for the same prize. I have big belief and I back my players to deliver.

"I think my experience of this team is when the challenge gets tough, they stand up and the hostility here will bring the best out of my team and I have every confidence we can get the result we need.

"Having said that, I don't think this tie will be decided (tonight). I think it will go to the wire."

Legia last faced Scottish opponents in the 2014-15 Champions League qualifying stage - they were eliminated by Celtic having fielded an ineligible player

Legia Warsaw owner and president Dariusz Mioduski said: "We don't really know the potential of our team.

"It's a fairly new team with a number of changes. Last year we had nine players whose contracts were expiring and leaving the club so we were bringing new players in during this window and introducing young players from our academy into the squad.

"So it's a work in progress, it could be a nice surprise or it could be really difficult. I think it's close to a 50/50 tie, but I think it may be Rangers who are the favourites."

Meanwhile, Liverpool will not budge on their stance over Ryan Kent and the winger will not be allowed to join Rangers on loan.

Reports in Scotland suggested the 22-year-old, whose solitary first-team appearance for the Reds came in an FA Cup tie in January 2016, was prepared to try to force a move back to Ibrox, where he had a successful spell last season.

However, Liverpool's position has been clear from the start of the summer in that they see no value for them or the player in allowing him to return on loan and that will not change.

The club's preference is to sell last season's Scottish young player of the year and they are looking for something in the region of £7million - a figure Rangers boss and former Liverpool captain Gerrard cannot meet.

Manager Jurgen Klopp last month outlined the Merseyside club's reasoning, saying: "Going back? If Rangers can buy him. The time is over giving him on loan.

"At a specific age, a player needs to find a place to settle and stuff like this. A loan is not planned," he added.

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