European exertions could aid Rangers, says Hearts boss Craig Levein

Hearts manager Craig Levein. Pic: SNS
Hearts manager Craig Levein. Pic: SNS
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Hearts manager Craig Levein claims Rangers’ European exertions might even be an advantage for Steven Gerrard’s team going into Sunday’s Ibrox clash.

Rangers warmed up for this weekend’s eagerly-awaited encounter with a 3-1 win over Rapid Vienna on Thursday to move top of their Europa League group, while the Ladbrokes Premiership leaders had a free midweek.

The European win was Rangers’ eighth Ibrox victory this season and took their recent tally at home to 16 goals in four matches.

And Levein feels the feelgood factor might outweigh any fatigue the hosts have to contend with.

“That (tiredness) is in the mix I suppose but you could also throw in the confidence they have got from their home form,” he said. “And also the confidence they will have gained from beating a very good side on Thursday night.

“It’s always hard to work out whether it’s a disadvantage or an advantage of playing and having a resounding victory in front of a full house at Ibrox. I suppose if you ask Steven would he have rather had the game or not had the game, I’d be interested in hearing what his thoughts are.”

Levein was used to combining midweek European games with weekend fixtures while playing for Hearts during the 1980s and early 1990s.

“At the start of my career it was difficult,” he said. “By the end of my career it was just another game. Your body adapts and you can mentally deal with whatever’s thrown at you.

“You want to be involved in European competitions. If you are involved in European competitions, you play more matches. Sometimes they are tough matches.

“If you go back to when I started playing and you had Dundee United under Jim McLean and Aberdeen under Sir Alex (Ferguson), I think one season Dundee United went with 14 players throughout the whole season and were involved in cup ties, league games, European games. So it was possible in those days.

“If you strive to be as good as you can be, you are going to be involved in big games and big competitions. My outlook on that was ‘bring it on’ because you want to be testing yourself against the best players. This group of players we have got, I’m sure are of the same mindset.”