Steven Gerrard has called on his Rangers players to give him one last push as they look to end 2018 on a high against Celtic.
Gers welcome Brendan Rodgers’ champions to Ibrox on Saturday for their final clash before the winter break and Gerrard has demanded his team produce a better display than they managed on his Old Firm debut.
The former Liverpool skipper felt the Light Blues showed the side managed by his old Anfield boss far too much respect at Parkhead back in September and paid the price as Olivier Ntcham sealed a 1-0 win for the Hoops.
But this time Gerrard expects no half-measures, declaring: “We have to bring our ‘A’ game.
“We’re playing against a good team who’ll be well-drilled. We know that we have to bring our best to get the result we want.
“I’m confident the players can do that. It’s the last fixture, there’s 90 minutes to go empty it for and give everything you’ve got. Let’s see where it takes us.
“We’ve certainly got respect for the opposition but what a fantastic opportunity for the players to go try to get the result we need.”
The Ibrox showdown will be Gers 38th game of a gruelling season already and the effects of that heavy workload have started to show in recent weeks.
Gerrard’s men have won just two of their last six league games but the manager believes a victory that would see Rangers join their arch rivals at the top of the table on 42 points would mean his team are back on track.
“We always said, certainly at the start of the season looking ahead to the first six months, that we wanted to be in this position,” he said.
“I feel we’re a couple of results away from having the perfect six months, if you like.
“But this is an opportunity that if we can get the result that we want it puts us where we need to be.
“I felt that during the first 45 minutes at Celtic Park we didn’t give a true account of ourselves. We played in a shell and lacked a bit of bravery and belief in the first half.
“We grew into the game and improved as it went on but it wasn’t enough.
“I just hope the players go give a true account of themselves.
“I think we’ve shown at Ibrox this season against high-level opposition that when we play with freedom, back ourselves and go out with confidence then we’ve played some really nice stuff. I hope the players can deliver that.
“I don’t like losing and I don’t want my players to enjoy losing. Of course, it’s always going to linger with it being a derby.
“But you self-reflect, you analyse where it went wrong and what you can improve on then you look to address it in the next Old Firm. That’s the opportunity tomorrow.”
Gerrard could do without the lengthy list of casualties that robbed him of several of his top stars for Wednesday’s draw with Hibernian.
Connor Goldson became the latest addition when he limped off against Neil Lennon’s side but Gerrard is willing to give the defender plus fellow doubts Gareth McAuley, Scott Arfield and Ryan Kent until the last minute to shake off their injury troubles.
“We’ve still got 24 hours to go and we’ll give everyone up to the last possible moment,” he said. “There’s still two or three that are touch and go but we’ll made decisions on them later on today or first thing tomorrow.
“We’ll still have a strong team out tomorrow, though.”