Steven Gerrard insists he won't park Rangers' bus
The Glasgow side have flown out for their latest Europa League qualifier with a 3-1 advantage after last week’s Ibrox triumph.
Gerrard knows it is up to the hosts at the Ljudski Stadion to force the issue tonight if they want to turn the tie around. But he does not want to invite pressure on his team by having them sit back looking to protect that scoreline.
The Champions League winner believes his new-look side are at their best when on the front foot and has now told his players they can send out a warning to potential play-off opponents FC Ufa and Progress Niederkorn by gunning down Darko Milanic’s men away from home.
He said: “At some point Maribor are going to have to take some risks in the game and I will pick a team with enough attacking talent to hopefully go and hurt them.
“This is not a case of us coming here to hang on and try to grind through the 90 minutes in order to get over the line.
“This is an opportunity to show we’re a team that’s moving forward, a team that is growing, that has confidence. So I want my players to play as big players, as a big team tomorrow and show we’re a threat away in Europe.”
However, the away goal netted by Mitja Viler in Glasgow last week has given Maribor hope they can rescue the situation.
But Gerrard has backed his team to handle whatever comes their way.
“It will certainly be a test and a tough one – but so was Shkupi and Osijek because we were not 100 per cent match fit in those games.
“I think it would be very naive for my players to go in and think that this will be a walkover. We understand the threat that Maribor come with, we know they’re a Champions League-category team, so we come here with respect. But at the same time we won’t be getting nervous or scared by any comments that come out of Maribor.
“We’ll worry about us. I believe the team is ready and capable of getting the result that favours us.
Gerrard confirmed that Ryan Jack, Lassana Coulibaly and Scott Arfield are “all good to go” after shaking off their recent injury concerns.
But with Jon Flanagan suspended and new signing Borna Barisic ineligible, the Ibrox manager does have a decision to make over who starts at left-back.
Midfielder Andy Halliday is the favourite to plug the hole in Rangers’ defence – a prospect which will bring out some supporters in a cold sweat as they remember back to the torturing he received from Celtic’s James Forrest the last time he had to fill that role in a big clash, April’s 5-0 Parkhead pasting.
But Gerrard said: “First and foremost I trust every one of my players. I’m confident that if any of them are called upon they will come out and do the shirt justice.
“It’s a shame that Jon’s suspended and Borna’s not available but it will be an opportunity for someone else and they have to be ready to take that challenge – but I do have confidence in every player.”