Rangers boss Steven Gerrard is hoping his side replicate their performance at Celtic Park that won them three points last year – but he doesn’t want his players to be overconfident.
A 2-1 win in December gave Rangers their first win at Celtic Park since 2010 and Gerrard and his players travel across the city on Saturday knowing that a similar result could be an important step in the race for the title.
The Rangers manager was clear about the task facing his team and what would be needed for a repeat result.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” he said. “Last season was the first time we’ve managed to get a win there in a very long time, which basically lets everyone know how difficult the task is and has been for many years.
“Going to Celtic Park, they’re a good team, a strong team, a successful team but we went there last year with a game plan and the players performed extremely well. We went with confidence and belief and got the job done. We’re hoping the players can produce a similar type of performance.
“We want the players to go to Celtic Park with belief and confidence but we don’t want them going there overconfident just on the back of last year. We know it’s going to be a tough challenge and we need to find a top-level performance if we are to have any hopes of taking the three points.”
Gerrard shrugged off the possible effects of there being no fans in the ground for the derby, though he agreed with those calling for the game to be shown free-to-air so that all supporters could watch their side on television.
The Rangers boss said that while all players returning from international duty would be assessed, he wasn’t aware of any fresh injury concerns that would affect his team selection. Rivals Celtic have been rocked by news that they could be without four first team players because of coronavirus cases during their international duty, but Gerrard doesn’t feel that the outbreaks should stop Nations League games and other qualifiers.
“Assuming that players can be safe I want international football to continue,” he said.
“Of course I do. I remember sitting in the house and there was no football on at all. I was bored out of my mind.
“So I think we’re in a privileged position domestically that things can continue, even though we are facing these challenges.
“We know it’s not perfect but two weeks ago we got a fantastic highlight qualifying against Galatasaray so I can’t sit here and say European and international football should be cancelled because it might suit my Rangers team here domestically.
“It is what it is, we have to manage the situation and try to keep all the players as safe as we can.”
He compared Celtic’s troubles with the injuries his own side had encountered so far this season.
“It’s very challenging for every club and there’s been a lot of clubs, not just in this league but around Europe, that have had their own challenges from Covid,” he added.
“When your players leave your bubble you lose control of them, it’s as simple as that.
“You’re hoping the national teams take over that responsibility and keep them safe.
“But a lot of clubs are facing different challenges at the moment. Celtic obviously of late but it’s pretty similar to the challenges we’ve faced for the last month you know, not having Joe Aribo, not having Kemar Roofe, missing Ryan Jack for three weeks.
“These things happen when you’re managing squads of players and that’s the reason why we try to build squads so we can cope in these situations.
“We’ve coped extremely well missing three of our important players, arguably three starters.
“All the managers, not just myself and not just Neil (Lennon), are faced with different challenges week to week and you have to cope and get on with it.”