STEVEN GERRARD expects his Rangers side to face a ‘step-up’ when they take on Denmark’s FC Midtjylland in the Europa League tomorrow night.
Having come through against sides from Gibraltar and Luxembourg to reach the third qualifying round, the manager expects Gers to be in for a tough night at the MCH Arena.
Speaking at this evening’s press conference in Herning, he explained: “It definitely will be a step-up in quality. We experienced that last year, with all due respect, as we moved through the qualifying rounds.
“The level of player goes up from an individual point of view and normally the league you are competing against, so to go from Luxembourg to Denmark, with all due respect, it’s going to be a level up.
“We are ready for that challenge. It’s a game we are really looking forward to, but I think it’s very difficult to gauge how much the step-up is, though I’m sure we’ll find out pretty soon.
“It has been well documented their strengths in terms of how good they are on set-pieces. They have had a lot of joy and a lot of success over the years from a set-piece point of view, and they have a Brazilian connection here, so technically, they’ll have individuals that can create interesting situations against us.
“So they are a good team. They don’t have massive names in terms of throughout Europe, but as a club, they are well respected with the teams they have created.
“They have a Brentford connection as well so we are well-aware of their threats and their strengths, but we come here in a good place.
“We are right up for this challenge and it is over two games. It is important we do everything we can to try and set it up for Ibrox the week after.”
Gerrard was asked what he expects from the Danes tomorrow night, to which he replied: “They play a system with five defenders, three midfielders and two forwards, or at least they have done consistently, whether they change that against us we will have to wait and see.
“They do try and play on the floor and try to build out from the back, and I think with home advantage, you imagine playing two up front, they will try and cause a threat.
“I don’t envisage us playing against a block for the majority of the game like we have done in previous rounds and domestically against Kilmarnock.
“I think we’ve been decent against the blocks throughout pre-season and also in the games we have played so far, I have seen improvements from where we were last year, but in games where it is maybe more close to a 50/50 game in terms of possession and the opposition team try to bring the game to you, we have had a lot of joy against those teams.
“But we haven’t played against Midtjylland, so we have to wait and see how the game pans out. We come here with a lot of respect for the team and the opposition, but, we come here with belief and confidence as well that we can get the result we want.”
A lot has been made of how strong Midtjylland are at set-pieces, and the manager added: “It’s an area we put a lot of focus on, certainly from an attacking point of view, we got a lot of success at the weekend.
“I think with Niko and Connor, and also Filip when he is ready we have guys who have really big, tall profiles who are hungry in the opposition box and can go and cause a threat.
“Scotty Arfield got his goal at the weekend because of Niko’s hunger in the box, and then Connor stepped up as a leader to get us three important points.
“We certainly carry a threat ourselves, but we got done with a set-piece at the weekend which was a concern, so against a team like Midtjylland, we have to defend set-pieces really well and we’ll have to defend our own box. That’s the priority.”