Steven Gerrard says he does not believe the partial ground closure of Ibrox will have an adverse impact on Rangers tonight as they bid to reach the group stage of the Europa League.
The implementation of Uefa’s punishment for sectarian chants during the first qualifying round tie against St Joseph’s last month means 3,000 seats will be empty for the second leg of the play-off round showdown with Legia Warsaw.
The tie is finely balanced after last week’s 0-0 draw in Poland and Rangers manager Gerrard admits it is “not ideal” for his team to be without the backing of a capacity home support for such a crucial fixture.
But Gerrard believes those Rangers fans in attendance can combine with his players to carry the club through to a second successive appearance in the Europa League group stage.
“I don’t think [the partial ground closure] will have an effect,” said Gerrard. “It’s not ideal, it’s frustrating because we want the best atmosphere that we can find and as many people in there on our side as we can.
“But I still have confidence that the fans will make the place rock on Thursday night. I’m sure that once the ball is rolling, the players will be focused on trying to lift that crowd and keep it with us from start to finish. The fans have never let us down on that front so I don’t think that will start tomorrow.”
The Ibrox ground closure will centre on the BF1 section of the Broomloan Road Stand which normally houses the Union Bears Ultras fan group.
It is understood both the Uefa match delegate and a representative from anti-discrimination organisation Fare singled out that part of the ground when citing Rangers for racist behaviour of their support during the St Joseph’s match on 18 July.
Rangers recently launched a new diversity and inclusion campaign called “Everyone Anyone” and have pledged a “zero tolerance” approach to all forms of discrimination, while Gerrard has made his own public appeals for an end to unacceptable conduct within the club’s support.
“I don’t think I can say any more about it,” added Gerrard.
“Since I came to the club, it has been two or three occasions now where we have asked them to behave in the right manner. Because, in the long run, it is only our team that suffers.
“So there is not another message I can give, really, that is stronger than I already have and I think the club are doing everything they can to ask for the right type of behaviour.”