Rangers v Bayer Leverkusen - 'Jumping Ibrox' can inspire players, says Gary McAllister

McAllister hails club’s unbeaten home record in Europe during Gerrard’s tenure

Rangers are unbeaten at home in Europe under Steven Gerrard
Rangers are unbeaten at home in Europe under Steven Gerrard

For all of the doubts justifiably raised about Steven Gerrard’s failure to bring domestic success to Rangers, his Europa League accomplishments at the club have consistently burnished his nascent managerial CV.

But there can be little doubt that his impressive record in the competition faces its toughest test yet when in-form Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen arrive at Ibrox on Thursday night for the first leg of an intriguing last-16 tie.

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Gerrard has turned the Govan ground into a veritable fortress for Rangers in Europe over the past two seasons. They are unbeaten in the 15 home games he has overseen in the Europa League so far, winning 11 of them and keeping nine clean sheets in the process.

It’s a statistic which makes the grim toil of so many of his team’s performances at Ibrox since the winter break all the more difficult for the Rangers supporters to comprehend.

It remains to be seen whether the split personality of Gerrard’s squad will again show its best side this week against a Bayer Leverkusen outfit unbeaten in their last nine matches in all competitions – winning eight of them – and who are regarded by many observers as dark horses to go all the way in the Europa League this season.

Rangers assistant manager Gary McAllister is hopeful that inspiration and motivation can be drawn from earlier Europa League battles with more fancied opponents, most recently the outstanding 4-2 aggregate defeat of Braga in the last 32.

“It’s a challenge we are most definitely looking forward to,” said McAllister ahead of the Leverkusen assignment.

“We have proven we can stand toe to toe with some good teams [in the Europa League] and we should use that as a confidence boost.

“The games are fantastic. Ibrox will be jumping, the atmosphere will be fantastic. We also have quite a bit of competition for places. It’s hotting up.”

With Sunday’s Old Firm game at Ibrox sandwiched in between the two legs of the Leverkusen tie, Rangers’ 1-0 win at Ross County in the Premiership on Sunday came as a timely and much-needed boost to Rangers after their recent domestic disappointments.

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“I think it’s a big victory,” added McAllister. “It just gives us a wee jolt of confidence. Our confidence has been a wee bit low which is to be expected when results haven’t gone our way recently.

“So it’s a boost for these massive games – a couple of massive games at Ibrox. It’s a great week to be a Rangers player, I feel.”

Rangers’ display in Dingwall was anything but aesthetically pleasing but McAllister felt the result was of primary significance after the Scottish Cup exit at Hearts and home league defeat against Hamilton Accies in their two previous outings.

“I don’t think any of us envisaged playing nice, pretty patterns on the pitch [at Ross County],” said McAllister. “It was going to be tough.

“There has been a little bit of criticism flying around. The pressure was on our players to get three points, so first and foremost we are happy with the three points.”

Ryan Kent has been the subject of much of the criticism referred to by McAllister, so it was a welcome contribution from the £7 million winger when his deflected shot in the 77th minute earned victory for Rangers.

“You do make your own luck,” McAllister told Rangers TV. “There is the responsibility of coming inside and taking the shot on, rather than laying it off or looking to play a one-two. It’s just having that bravery to go and have a strike – and you get your rewards.

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“It took a little ricochet and that’s probably what we needed. I thought we were in control for most of the game.”

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