STEVEN Gerrard says his Rangers team are going into his maiden Old Firm as manager, confident and “in a good place”.
He described his side as warriors after reaching the group stages of the Europa League on Thursday night, with just nine men, and believes that spirit will stand them in good stead this Sunday.
Gerrard was asked by the media on Friday if he was at all worried by the lack of derby experience in his new look squad but he brushed those questions aside.
He said: “We are going into the game with a lot of experienced players, even though they might not have Old Firm experience.
“Yes it is a big game and it is a big derby but I have got players within the group who have played in front of big crowds before.
“They have played at Ibrox so they are used to playing under pressure with demand but it is an away game and we are playing against the team who have won the treble back to back so we are aware of the size of the challenge.
“People are always wanting to set the tone aren’t they, people are always wanting to magnify how big this game is and we appreciate it and we respect it.
“For us it was about treating this window as the first block of the season. Thursday night was magnificent for everyone connected and everyone is back in a good place, we had a little bit of a bump in the road at Motherwell late doors and the idea was to get the good feeling back.
“We wanted to go into this game in a good place and we are going in in a good place, we are confident.
“It is all about recovery now and trying to get energy back in the legs and trying to freshen up mentally for the challenge on Sunday.
“It is a big game, against a tough team, and I obviously know the manager and coaching staff at Celtic very well, who I respect a lot. We are going there really looking forward to the challenge.”
Gerrard will come up against his former manager at Liverpool for the first time at Parkhead, as well as manage in the famous fixture for the first time.
Speaking about what he expects he commented, “You know Celtic teams are renowned for coming out of the blocks very quick, like a lot of big clubs, playing for or against.
“They always want to get the crowd in their favour and behind the team and start the game very well.
“It is very important that my players are ready from the first whistle and we are not caught cold.
“This is a big game for me, of course it is, and I am going into my first Old Firm so it is going to be a new experience for me and one that I am really looking forward to.
“I don’t think I can compare it to being a player, although I wish I was playing in it but unfortunately those days have gone.
“I can’t wait for it, this is where I wanted to be as a player and this is where I want to be as a manager – I always want to compete against the best.
“I am going up against a top manager, from a personal point of view, my team are going up against a good team and we are going into a stadium that is renowned for a top atmosphere. If that doesn’t float your boat they I shouldn’t be sitting behind this desk.”