Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has promised no excuses after they made their domestic business even tougher by securing progress in Europe.
Gerrard stretched the unbeaten start to his managerial career to eight games after a goalless draw against Maribor set up a Europa League play-off against Russian side Ufa.
Rangers players were given Friday off following their return from Slovenia and now face a difficult Betfred Cup encounter on Sunday against former Liverpool coach Steve Clarke’s Kilmarnock side, who beat the Light Blues twice last season.
Results on Thursday also ensured Rangers will be 800 miles east of Moscow for the play-off second leg on August 30, two-and-a-half days before they face Celtic in a Sunday lunchtime kick-off at Parkhead.
Gerrard said: “Confidence is growing and it’s just important we keep the momentum going. The schedule is tough but we knew that - the reward for doing well is more football matches.
“The good thing is we can share the load, we have a decent-sized squad and the majority of that is healthy.
“We could do with a couple more bodies getting back from injury and if we could add to that before the window shuts it would be very helpful.
“It is what it is. You won’t see any excuses coming from myself or my staff or players.
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“We realise it’s tough and will be a challenge but we just focus on the next game, against Kilmarnock in the cup against Steve Clarke, who we know well.
“He’s a very good manager who has his teams very organised and we know it’s a different surface. So we are faced straight away with another difficult challenge. “For me it’s important I just keep the players focused on the next challenge and not get too far ahead of ourselves.”
Celtic also face a run of Thursday-Sunday matches after bowing out of the Champions League, although they are at home against Suduva immediately before the derby.
Defeat by AEK Athens also saw the Scottish champions miss out on a £30million-plus stream of income but Gerrard did not concern himself with their city rivals’ fortunes.
“The situation for us is to worry about us and what’s going on at Rangers,” he said. “Our focus can’t be looking over the garden fence.
“We have to make sure we are right and keep moving forward. We are trying to build something here that can compete domestically and also do ourselves justice in Europe. “Whatever happens at other clubs is their business.”
Gerrard offered no update on his pursuit of Kyle Lafferty following Hearts manager Craig Levein’s assertion that transfer talks were ongoing, while he reiterated his desire to see Alfredo Morelos offered an improved contract after Bordeaux failed with a £3.75 million offer.
Former boss Graeme Murty conceded the striker was affected by transfer speculation in January amid reports of big-money offers from China and Gerrard will aim to keep the Colombian feeling wanted.
“My job is to try and manage the situation and tell Alfredo how much he is loved here,” Gerrard said.
“The fans sang his name non-stop on Thursday night. He’s a big hero here and it’s my responsibility to keep heroes here for the fans to follow week in, week out.”