Kyle Lafferty can cause Villarreal problems says Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard believes Rangers can spring a few surprises and qualify for the knockout rounds of the Europa League.

Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty departs for Spain sporting a new hairstyle. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS

The Ibrox side make their return to the group stage of a European competition for the first time in eight years when they take on Villarreal in Spain this evening.

Making it this far can be regarded as a major achievement for the Rangers manager and his new-look side. But the former Champions League winner has bigger ambitions than that and insists his team have not fought their way through four qualifiers just to make up the numbers.

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Now, on the eve of their Group G opener against the Spanish big guns, Gerrard declared his team are out to cause a shock at El Madrigal.

“It’s important we take one game at a time,” he said. “We are the underdogs in the group in terms of the opinions from outside, but in the dressing room we have a quiet confidence and belief we can cause a shock and get out of the group.

“We are not here to make up the numbers. We want to challenge in the group and see where we end up.

“This game doesn’t highlight how far I’ve taken the group but how far the team have taken themselves and the hard work and effort they have put in to get to this stage.

“We all believe this is where this club should be after difficult times and not many people gave us a chance of making this stage.

“If people want to underestimate us or write us off that’s fine. I can see a togetherness and a team growing. I’m happy where we are at this moment.”

Injured midfielders Ryan Jack and Ovie Ejaria and defender Gareth McAuley
failed to make the trip to Spain, while Rangers will also be without the suspended pair of Alfredo Morelos and Jon Flanagan following their red cards against Ufa in the play-off round in Russia.

Morelos’ dismissal means Kyle Lafferty will now get the chance to sink the Yellow Submarine and Gerrard insists the Northern Irishman deserves his chance.

He said: “Kyle will lead the line and there are no secrets. He goes into the game in good form and in a good place.

“He’s the type Villarreal won’t be used to playing on a weekly basis as he has different attributes to a typical La Liga striker. I’m looking forward to seeing him play – all the players have earned the right to play against such a good team.”

Lafferty hopes he can now cap off a year that has seen him both beat his gambling demons, as well as sealing a move back to Ibrox, with a precious strike on the Mediterranean coast.

He said: “Not many get the chance to play for Rangers once, I’ve been lucky to play twice. I want to put everything that’s gone wrong right in this game.

“Alfredo missing is a big blow but it gives me the chance to show the gaffer what I’m capable of doing and if I’m given the chance, put one away. Hopefully it goes our way and we get the result we all want.”