STEVEN GERRARD is pleased that Rangers have an important midweek fixture against Aberdeen at Pittodrie prior to Sunday’s highly anticipated League Cup final.
The manager, speaking at his pre-match press conference alongside Borna Barisic at the Hummel Training Centre earlier this afternoon, is looking forward to what is sure to be a tough 90-minute battle against the Reds in the Granite City tomorrow night.
He said: “We’ve got to thrive and enjoy and embrace the atmosphere at Pittodrie.
“The players have faced some real big atmospheres and challenges when you think of Feyenoord and Legia Warsaw away.
“We’re obviously used to a big atmosphere at home as well, so I don’t think any of my players will be shying away or intimidated by the Pittodrie atmosphere.
“For me it’s get your chest out and embrace it and really enjoy it.
I’m pleased we’ve got a game. As someone who has been around finals and stuff like that, sometimes you can have a week leading up to the game or even longer and it can be too long. I think it’ll actually help us that we’ve got a focus and we’ve got a challenge in front of us.
“We know it will be tough and Aberdeen have turned a corner in terms of their form, so the challenge is there but it’s a great challenge, it’s a great fixture, and the atmosphere will be interesting up there.
“But for the players these are the games they’ve really got to enjoy and look forward to. I’m certainly looking forward to going up there today.
“This fixture takes the focus away [from Sunday] and obviously it’s a very important three points for us.
“I’m sure the final will hit us very quickly after the Aberdeen game, but for the players there will be no talk of the final around here in terms of the preparation because we want to give Aberdeen the respect they deserve.
“They are a good team and I think they have shown that certainly in my time being here.
“I know Derek [McInnes] very well. He’ll fight all the way and he’ll get his players to fight for him to continue to finish as high up as they can. So we won’t be writing anyone off.”
When asked if the game at Pittodrie provides the Rangers players with a chance to shine and claim a place in the League Cup final team, Gerrard replied: “That’s the same in all the games. That’s the message to all the players and Borna will be back me up.
We are always saying that when you are representing this club and you wear the badge and the shirt you’ve got to do everything you can in your power to stay in the team for the next game.
“Of course, that magnifies a bit with the final at the weekend but the players have only got to focus on the job that I’m asking them to do against Aberdeen – individually and collectively.
“It’s not wise to think about the weekend so we need to go full throttle from kick-off tomorrow night to do everything we can over the 90 minutes.”
The manager ended his press conference by providing a fitness update on his squad. He added: “We’re going to train just after this.
“We’ve got a couple of bumps and bruises from the weekend that we are managing but I think we’ll be okay and we’ll have everyone available.
“Jordan Jones has had a little setback. He’s got a bit of tight quad. It will only be a few days, but it will set him back maybe a game or two. Jermain [Defoe] is fine.”