Steven Gerrard sure Ibrox will welcome rivals Villarreal in Europa League
A full-house Ibrox Stadium will welcome Spanish aces Villarreal to Glasgow tonight on Matchday Five of the Europa League group stage.
For Steven Gerrard, the opportunity to once again cross swords with the ‘Yellow Submarine’ is a prospect he relishes.
“I have a huge respect for Villarreal – we know they play in one of the top Leagues in the world and I believe they’re in a false position domestically. They’ve won five games out of eighteen - but they’re coming to our place where we’ve been quite strong.
“We’re playing well at the moment – it’s a fantastic opportunity for us.”
The ‘Gers manager was in no doubt that – despite faltering form in La Ligue – Villarreal offer a significant test for his team.
“If you give Villarreal too much time and space you’ll get hurt. With all due respect you can get away with certain things domestically but at this level small mistakes get punished. We have to defend perfectly.”
Gerrard underlined that he is immensely proud of the way that his side have defied the odds as far as this European campaign is concerned.
“Our second-half performance in Spain let everyone in the group know that we were capable of competing at this level.
“We’ve come up against all the teams in the group now – I think the players, even in the defeat in Moscow, have a belief that we can progress.
“We want the fans and the players to create a storm. I believe that when the draw was made Villarreal and Spartak Moscow would have been very happy to have drawn Rangers – but now we have earned respect in this group.”
The Ibrox Boss drew on his own experiences as a player, in particular a certain Champions League Final.
“There are times when you can show the opposition too much respect – such as AC Milan. They had the world’s best players in every single position but we showed them too much respect in the first-half..
“You come away with regrets if you show them too much respect. Fortunately, in Spain, we had 45 minutes to address that but the players deserve the credit for rectifying that in the second.”
The Rangers manager clearly had progress to the knock-out stages of the competition in his sights as he looked ahead to the match.
“There’s still a long way to go to get to where we want to be. We’re not getting carried away. We know we’ll have to punch above our weight.
“We’ll need four points minimum from the last two games to go through to the last 32. If someone had said to me at the beginning that it would go down to the wire then I would have signed up for it. Hopefully we’ll get the right result tomorrow – we’ll be going for the win. We need to play at a tempo and a speed that they’re not comfortable with.
“I want the last thirty-two as do the players. You’ve always got to push, to go the extra mile – but if it’s not to be I’ll still be very proud of the players.
“We’ll have 51,000 fans roaring us on – we can’t wait for it.”
Gerrard meanwhile spoke again of the need for discipline whilst reiterating his admiration for Alfredo Morelos.
“I like players that play on the edge and sometimes get it wrong because they’re the ones that make the difference.”
Neither Borna Barisic nor Ryan Kent will play against Villarreal, although both are back in training whilst Jamie Murphy and Graham Dorrans remain long-term absentees.