Steven Gerrard says being ready for Celtic Park should be 'in the DNA' of his Rangers players despite their Europa League exit

The physical and emotional fall-out from Rangers’ tempestuous Europa League exit against Slavia Prague on Thursday night is hardly the ideal preparation for any weekend domestic fixture, let alone the small matter of an Old Firm clash.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has been left with plenty to reflect upon after Thursday's Europa League defeat against Slavia Prague as he prepares for Sunday's trip to Celtic Park. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has been left with plenty to reflect upon after Thursday's Europa League defeat against Slavia Prague as he prepares for Sunday's trip to Celtic Park. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

But Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has challenged his players to prove it is now ‘in their DNA’ to be fully focused and ready for the demands of facing their club’s biggest rivals in any circumstances.

Rangers will travel to Celtic Park as the newly crowned Premiership champions on Sunday where their hosts will not be short of motivation to become the first team to beat them on league business this season.

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Gerrard’s squad are still coming to terms with the manner of their Europa League elimination at the last 16 stage, the 2-0 defeat overshadowed by the alleged racist abuse of midfielder Glen Kamara by Slavia defender Ondrej Kudela.

Nathan Patterson beats the turf in frustration at Ibrox on Thursday night. The teenage right-back picked up a calf injury and is a doubt for Sunday's Old Firm match. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

The recriminations from that incident will rumble on for some time and have caused a lingering sense of anger and despair among many of Gerrard’s players.

But as they try to regroup with such a short turnaround before their latest Old Firm assignment, Gerrard will seek a unified and robust response.

“I think this is a time and a moment where everyone needs to show their strength,” reflected Gerrard.

“It is a really testing time for everyone, it is not what we want to be involved in. But it has happened, it is what it is, and it is very important that we stick together, that we stay strong and that we are there for each other.

“Especially so for Glen Kamara and some of the players in the group that have suffered some abuse over the course of the last 24 hours. I want to be that person that is there for them, and I will be.

“In an ideal situation, you want to go into a big game like Sunday’s with a week's preparation behind you. You want to go in 100 percent mentally and physically prepared and ready.

“But you can’t control these situations and the schedule. The Old Firm game is going to come on us pretty quickly after Thursday night.

“We have to accept the outcome of Thursday against Slavia and we will analyse and debrief the game. Now the challenge is to get the players as best prepared we can before kick off.”

Gerrard has a fresh injury concern over Nathan Patterson after the 19-year-old full-back was substituted on Thursday because of a calf injury.

He indicated he may choose to make changes to his starting line-up in any case to try and ensure his team has sufficient energy and dynamism against Celtic. Ianis Hagi is likely to return after being an unused substitute against Slavia, while a first starting appearance for Scott Wright is also an option Gerrard may consider.

“We have a big squad here and we have an opportunity to make some changes and freshen things up on Sunday,” he added.

“But the motivation of being ready to play should not be needed for a game like this. It should be in your DNA to be ready for a game like this.”

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