Steven Gerrard calls for controlled aggression as Rangers stand on verge of all-time Scottish Euro record

As if his Europa League statistics as Rangers manager weren’t impressive enough already, Steven Gerrard could notch up another eye-catching landmark at Ibrox on Thursday night.

Glen Kamara is one of three Rangers players, along with Borna Barisic and Kemar Roofe, one booking away from a Europa League suspension. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

A win or a draw in the second leg of the last 16 tie against Slavia Prague would set a new all-time Scottish record of 13 consecutive unbeaten games in European club competition, surpassing the undefeated 12-match runs previously achieved by Rangers under Walter Smith from 1991 to 1993 and then over two campaigns overseen by Alex McLeish and Paul Le Guen between October 2005 and December 2006.

That the recently crowned Premiership title winners have racked up the current sequence in a single season is testament to the standards set and maintained both at home and on the road in the Europa League under Gerrard.

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Regardless of rewriting another page in the record books, the incentive of a place in next month’s quarter-finals, where potential opponents could include European heavyweights such as Ajax, Roma and Arsenal, is motivation enough for Gerrard.

Striker Alfredo Morelos and right-back Nathan Patterson will be key players for Rangers as they bid to overcome Slavia Prague at Ibrox on Thursday night. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

No half measures

It is why he will instruct his players to leave nothing on the pitch as they bid to complete a task started with last week’s 1-1 draw against the Czech champions in Prague. That demand will apply equally to the trio of Borna Barisic, Glen Kamara and Kemar Roofe who are all one booking away from a suspension which would rule them out of the first leg of a last eight tie.

Gerrard doesn’t want to see anyone on his team pulling their punches on such a momentous evening.

“My message to them is full commitment, don’t hold back,” he said. “Be aggressive in the right way. Forget about yellow cards or future games. Go and give me everything you’ve got in this game and let’s see what happens after the final whistle.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has urged his players to hold nothing back as they pursue a place in the Europa League quarter-finals. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

“No-one will be holding back in this game or thinking or worrying about themselves, or playing with ego for future games. We just need to go in and give everything we’ve got for this game.”

Money talks

But he is keen to ensure the Europa League adventure continues, not least because of the financial benefits it brings with a further bonus of around €1.5 million added to this season’s income if Rangers make it into Friday’s quarter-final draw.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard watched his side draw with Slavia Prague on Thursday. Picture: SNS

“At a club like Rangers, we have to compete and fight for everything available,” added Gerrard.

“There is no getting away from the fact that the league is the bread and butter and the priority. Especially in a year and a season like this, I think that goes without saying.

“But everyone knows the financial situation. To do well in Europe, by qualifying first and foremost, then having a long run helps in a lot of areas.

“More importantly, in normal circumstances the fans can travel and follow the team and get the experiences that they want.

Left-back

“We’ve had some incredible times together, ourselves and the fans, travelling around Europe the last few years.

“We want more of that moving forward. This year we can’t go together. But next year we want the fans to be with us and we want to go on another journey.

“But first things first. We want to try and go as far as we can in the competition we are in now and Thursday presents a real good opportunity for us to get to the last eight and we want to go and grab that.”

Dangerous opponents

While Rangers look to have the edge in the tie, especially with an away goal to their credit, Gerrard is fully aware of the challenge posed by a Slavia side who won 2-0 at Leicester City in the previous round.

“I don’t think we need any warning,” he said. “To come up against a team at this stage of the competition, you have got to have respect in both legs.

“We have played against this team now for 90 minutes and, if anything, we have only got even more respect for them because you could see quite clearly that they play at a really high intensity, they have got good players that can hurt you if you give them time and space and they are a very fit, powerful team.

“They are almost German-like in terms of how they go about it. We are under no illusions and we have got nothing but respect for this team, but we have got no fear as well.

“We are a team that is here because we deserve to be here, we are a good team and have got international players ourselves. We have got a really strong home record and everyone is looking forward to this game with excitement and belief.

“If we find our level and our best, we believe it could be enough. We have watched the Leicester game, it was a fantastic result for them to go there and get a result. With the form they are in and the manager they have got, that is a big achievement, but this is a different game and Ibrox is different. We want to give this game everything we have got.

“It is right up there with the most important games that we have faced and played in. The opportunity to achieve the last eight, from where the club was when I came in, is a chance to achieve something that is monumental.

“We want to go and empty everything we have got into this game. We don’t have to worry about anything else that is on the horizon after it, we just want to treat this game in isolation and go and give it our best and see where it takes us. If we are in that draw, it will be a fantastic achievement from the players.”

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