Steven Gerrard expecting a tougher test from Aberdeen this time round21 November 2020
Steven Gerrard knows Rangers will be facing a stronger Aberdeen side on Sunday than the toothless outfit they squeezed past on the opening day of the season. However, the Ibrox boss has warned Derek McInnes his team are also firing on all cylinders as they look to maintain their unbeaten start to the campaign. Gers got off to a winning start back in August as they edged to a 1-0 win at Pittodrie thanks to Ryan Kent's winner. The Dons barely mustered an attempt on goal having been forced to start with youngster Bruce Anderson up front in place of injured strikers Sam Cosgrove and Curtis Main.
McInnes has injury concerns again this weekend – with Niall McGinn, Jonny Hayes, Dylan McGeouch and Marley Watkins all ruled out and Ross McCrorie barred from facing his parent club. But Gerrard has been impressed with the way the Reds have bounced back from their opening set-back. He said: "I think they will come to Ibrox with confidence. They are on a good run of form, the cup game aside against Celtic, and they have reacted from the defeat in the first game of the season and gone on a really strong run. "They have got players back from injury and the Covid situation they were involved in. I am sure they are going to come and really fancy their chances and with confidence and belief. In terms of what we are going to face, we think it will be the same as previous encounters. "They will be well organised, physical and they will carry a goal threat like they do. "It is a big game and a big challenge for us but we can't be going in in a better place ourselves. For me, the focus is always what shape are we in and we couldn't be in a better place to face this challenge."
The Premiership leaders put on a show of intent before the international break as they hammered hapless Hamilton 8-0. And Gerrard wants his international stars to get back into the groove again as quickly as possible. He said: "It is key and that is the challenge for the players. The important thing for me is to get them back in the Rangers place, to focus back on Rangers and get them away from international duty and a focus on what is going to face us in the coming days. "All the focus and attention needs to be on Aberdeen. It is a big game. They deserve that attention because they are a good team and they will pose a difficult challenge to us. "For me, the players are really looking forward to this. You can feel around the place that there is a confidence and belief about them but it is always a challenge after a break, a couple of week break, even when you are in top form.
The challenge is can you find that rhythm as quick as you can." Gers can also take a big step towards the last 32 of the Europa League when Benfica touch down in Glasgow for Thursday night's clash. And the Ibrox boss wants his team to use Sunday's clash as a springboard to another big performance after claiming a 3-3 draw in Portugal earlier this month. "It's a very important period for us coming up, both domestically and in Europe," he said. "We know the weekend is going to be a game with big rivalry and we're going to have to put in an awful lot to get the result we want – but it's a game we're really excited about. "And then quickly after that from a European point of view we're hoping we can provide the performance to make Thursday very pivotal in terms of qualification. "They are two major tests for us over the course of the week but first things first, we have to try to get a positive result from Aberdeen that will hopefully take us into the Benfica game in a good place."