Rangers v Aberdeen: 'There seems to be a bit of hatred between both sets of supporters' says Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard has admitted he was taken aback by what he describes as ‘a bit of hatred’ in the rivalry between Rangers and Aberdeen.

Aberdeen and Rangers fans during last season's Scottish Cup tie at Pittodrie. Picture: SNS

It is a fixture which proved costly for the Rangers manager in his first season in Scottish football as his team were eliminated from both domestic cup competitions by the Dons and also dropped five points in the Premiership against Derek McInnes’ men.

Gerrard is relishing the first meeting of the clubs at Ibrox on Saturday afternoon and revealed it is a match-up which sees him face an increasing demand for tickets from associates south of the border.

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“Having watched the previous games, a lot of my friends and family want to come up and see it now,” said Gerrard. “They see it almost as the next best thing to the Old Firm game, if you like.

“I love it, it’s a great fixture. I didn’t realise how big the fixture is until I came up and got involved in it.

“I knew Aberdeen were a big team with history and I knew a bit about Derek as a player having played against him and watched him from afar.

“But until you actually come up and are part of Rangers or Aberdeen, you don’t realise that it’s quite intense and there is a big rivalry there.

“There seems to be a bit of hatred between both sets of supporters but it’s part and parcel of the excitement of the league. It’s one of the fixtures you look for at the beginning of the season and I’m sure we are going to have many more battles.

“It’s a bit of an understatement to say we had mixed results against Aberdeen last season. The results damaged us, very much so in the terms of the cup competitions.

“They had a little bit of joy against us in the league as well, so it is certainly a fixture we need to improve upon in terms of the points total.

“They are a tough nut to crack, organised and well drilled. They set you a challenge to break them down and they have some talent and ability that can hurt you on the break and create. They are effective off set-pieces, so we are well aware of Aberdeen’s strengths.

“They are a team we have respect for. Having said that, the last time we played them at Ibrox in April we were very dominant in winning 2-0. I’m looking for a similar level from the players. If we reach that, we can hopefully get the same outcome again.”

In a week when he has highlighted the physicality of Scottish football in the aftermath of Joe Aribo’s head injury suffered in Wednesday’s Betfred Cup quarter-final win at Livingston, Gerrard has no concerns about the likely combative nature of the meeting with Aberdeen.

“We welcome it if it’s in the right manner,” he said. “We are going to be physical with Aberdeen. We want to compete in the right way.

“I want my players to go up and win aerial duels. I want them to be putting tackles in and competing, to really stand up to Aberdeen who are a physical team.

“Derek will have his players fired up. We will have ours fired up. That’s what it should be about. Everyone should be looking forward to a fantastic fixture.

“The important thing is that we get a good game for the outsiders. For me, I need to win. That’s my focus.

“I’ll give the lads a game plan and try and help them as much as we can to get a win, because we are in a good place and we want to try and keep the momentum going.

“We had a tough night at Livingston but at the same time Aberdeen had to go and play extra-time against Hearts. Both teams will try and recover as best they can to be in the best possible shape.”

Gerrard is hopeful his players can continue the positive response they have shown since suffering their only defeat of the season so far at home to Celtic at the start of this month. They have notched up four wins in three competitions since then and have three more games before the next international break with home Premiership fixtures against Aberdeen and Hamilton either side of next Thursday’s Europa League match against Young Boys in Switzerland.

“The reaction has been really good,” added Gerrard. “It’s really only the Old Firm game where we haven’t done ourselves justice as a squad this season.

“Setbacks and disappointments in football are always an opportunity to bounce back. We’ve certainly done that but there are still three fixtures left before we can breathe again.

“Aberdeen is the one we need to focus on. The players are going into it with a lot of confidence.”