Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha is relishing the challenge of facing an in-form Aberdeen after hearing their visit to Pittodrie likened to a trip to “hell”.
Aberdeen are looking for an 11th consecutive home victory on Sunday and Caixinha accepts Rangers need to win in order to retain any hope of finishing second in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Rangers are 12 points adrift of the Dons with seven games remaining following consecutive draws with Motherwell and Kilmarnock, but Caixinha is preparing his team to meet the challenge head-on and ready them for an old-school battle.
“Everybody says that we are going to hell and I like those type of scenarios,” said Caixinha, who has won once in three games since arriving at Ibrox following a spell in Qatar.
“Football is about challenges. The history of football started with two cities fighting until they take the ball from one specific place and you can score one goal. Those moments were really violent and that’s the nature of football.
“We need to be clever, we need to have the right attitude and approach and grow with that old-style environment.
“It’s a game that we must win if we want to finish second, definitely,” added Caixinha, who could have Lee Hodson back in his injury-hit defence after the full-back recovered from illness.
“And it’s also the first of the last seven fixtures. We put one challenge to ourselves, starting with this one.
“The players need to see this game and all the games until the end (of the season) as challenges. That’s the way I see life.
“If I didn’t see the chance to be here as Rangers manager as a challenge, maybe I would be in the sun now in Qatar enjoying my wages.
“I came here for the challenge and I want the players to have that feeling as well, because representing Rangers is about being challenged, all day long, day by day, your entire life.
“This is the first challenge we face and the challenge is to see where we can reach in the last seven games.”
Despite the injury problems, which robbed him of Hodson, Lee Wallace, Rob Kiernan and Clint Hill against Kilmarnock, Caixinha’s decision-making is already coming under scrutiny so early in his reign.
But he insists he thrives under such conditions and knows his players’ character at Pittodrie will also be under the microscope.
“If you work for Rangers, you are judged all the time,” he said. “It’s one more challenge we are going to be judged on.
“We need to act like that and know that and we need to have pride in that. If we are not under those conditions to be judged all the time, we are doing nothing here.
“We are Rangers and we need to assume it, and we need to have strong character and personality.”
Aberdeen are gunning for a third consecutive runners-up finish but Rangers chairman Dave King has admitted he expected his team to finish a “strong second” before the start of the season.
And Caixinha has called for his players to show they can meet the high expectations that come with playing for the Govan club.
“We are going to play against a strong opponent, definitely,” he said. “It is a side that has had, if not four, then at least three years working together on the same basis, with the same manager.
“Of course it’s also important to realise that along this period, Rangers were not playing in the Scottish Premier. But football is the moment and Rangers are Rangers.
“We know we are going to face a strong squad in a hostile environment so you need to be prepared for it in order to know what sort of problems the opponent will pose you if you let it, and what you can explore in this opponent.”