Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has rebutted Celtic boss Neil Lennon’s claim that the pressure in the title race is now all on the Ibrox men.
Celtic opened up a five-point gap at the top of the table with their 2-0 win over Hearts at Tynecastle on Wednesday, with Rangers facing Hibs at Easter Road tonight but Gerrard insisted the margin is merely a result of the fixture schedule.
He did, though, accept that his side have been placed in a less than ideal situation in having their Easter Road visit brought forward, which prevented them fitting in their outstanding fixture, as Celtic did this week.
“It is a five-point gap with a game in hand,” said Gerrard. “The game in hand is at home to Ross County. So, over the course of the season, that fixture will come back to us and, the form we are in, we are confident we could win that.
“But we are well aware of what happened last night, and we are well aware of the form of Celtic and what we need to do short-term, medium and long. All we need to focus on is the short-term – which is trying to get three points against Hibs.”
Rangers will host Kilmarnock on Boxing Day then travel to Parkhead for an Old Firm clash a week on Sunday in the last round of games before the winter break. Gerrard added that his aim was simply to have his side “in the best position we can possibly be in” to return after the shutdown.
“They [Celtic] are naturally going to have a game more with the way the fixtures have fallen and this game being a Friday night.
“In an ideal situation we would have played last night [Wednesday] against Ross County and the TV wouldn’t have put us on Friday night.
“But we don’t make those decisions, so we have to roll with it and we are well aware what needs to be done short-term and moving forward after the break.”
Rangers have five of their next seven league games at home and Gerrard added: “The fixtures do become more favourable, if you like, in terms of home.
“Over the course of the 38 games, it is the same. We just have to deal with what is coming our way in the next couple of weeks, that’s the only important thing really.”
Dealing with the absence of the suspended Alferdo Morelos tonight will be the most pressing concern for Gerrard but he has complete confidence in Jermaine Defoe’s ability to deputise for the 27-goal Colombian, though he conceded his men would have to adapt their delivery for the veteran English forward.
The Rangers boss does not dispute the second yellow card received by Morelos for gesturing at the Motherwell support on Sunday, but did express his desire to see all such incidents treated in the same manner.
“Look, it is what it is, the rules are what they are, the referee has seen him [Morelos] do what he did There was no need for him to do what he did,” said the 39-year-old. “We need to accept it and move on. Unfortunately, it is myself, the players and supporters who suffer from that. I am not going to sit here and defend that action. But all we ask is for consistency across the board which there obviously hasn’t been in certain situations over the years. Moving forward, we will obviously make it clear to our players that that is not acceptable and we hope that the officials do the same across the board. That is all we ask for.”