Immortality beckons for Steven Gerrard and his Rangers players as momentous season enters final stage

Over the course of the next five weeks, Rangers can turn what has already been a truly momentous season into one for the ages.

Steven Davis acrobatically makes the breakthrough for Rangers in their Scottish Cup last 16 victory over Celtic at Ibrox on Sunday. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

For Steven Gerrard and his players, a slice of footballing immortality in the eyes of their club’s support is now tantalisingly close.

With four Premiership fixtures and potentially three Scottish Cup matches left to negotiate, a notable double is there for the taking. Can Rangers underscore their domestic dominance by both completing an invincible league season and ending a 12-year barren spell in the Scottish Cup?

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Gerrard has made it clear where his priority lies. Ever since Rangers clinched their 55th league title on March 7 with six rounds of fixtures still to play, the Ibrox manager has identified lifting the Scottish Cup as more important than completing an unbeaten Premiership campaign.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard greets Connor Goldson, who has played in all 51 matches played by the Ibrox club so far this season, at the end of the Scottish Cup win over Celtic. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Hungry for more

But that won’t stop Gerrard from being greedy enough to try and achieve both. When Brendan Rodgers’ led Celtic through the first ever undefeated 38-game top flight season in Scottish football history four years ago, few would have believed another one might be witnessed again so soon.

Rangers cannot match the record points tally of 106 racked up by Rodgers’ squad. But their maximum haul of 104 points offers them the opportunity to smash their own club record of 97 points, set by Alex McLeish’s treble-winning side of 2002-03.

If they stay unbeaten, it would only be the fourth time it has been done in Scotland since organised league football began in 1890. Prior to Celtic’s unblemished campaign under Rodgers, the two previous instances were in the sport’s embryonic era and in seasons which encompassed just 18 matches. Celtic won 15 and drew three of their fixtures in 1897-98 before Rangers surpassed that by remarkably winning all 18 games the following season.

The rarity of the feat underlines why it should be so coveted by Gerrard and his players, even though they have already secured their club’s primary objective of dethroning Celtic and becoming champions for the first time in a decade.

Balancing act

It will be intriguing to see how Rangers approach the first of their remaining four Premiership matches when they travel to St Johnstone on Wednesday evening.

Both teams will regard their Scottish Cup quarter-final meeting at Ibrox on Sunday night as the most important fixture of their week and Gerrard has already indicated he will make changes to his side at McDiarmid Park.

But he has plenty of quality within his squad to put out a formidable line-up at Perth while still giving a rest to others ahead of the cup tie.

Captain James Tavernier, an unused sub in Sunday’s 2-0 fourth round win over Celtic, is likely to make his return after a lengthy injury absence. Ianis Hagi, Scott Wright and Cedric Itten are among others who will be eager for the chance to play their part in the run-in to the end of the season.

With home games against Celtic and Aberdeen either side of a trip to Livingston making up the rest of Rangers’ league schedule, the potential status of Premiership ‘invincibles’ is still a major motivation. If that were then to be followed by Tavernier lifting aloft the Scottish Cup at Hampden on May 22, a place in the Ibrox pantheon is assured.

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