STEVEN GERRARD believes his players would be ‘naive’ to look ahead to the semi-finals of the William Hill Scottish Cup with a tough last eight replay against Aberdeen at Ibrox coming up tomorrow night.
The manager is well aware that returning to the National Stadium in the semis is an exciting prospect for everyone associated with Rangers, but he also knows the dangers of looking too far ahead when Derek McInnes’ men, who won at Ibrox on December 5, will also be determined to progress.
The manager, speaking at this morning’s pre-match press conference at the Hummel Training Centre, said: “I think any game against Aberdeen is always huge and the message from me is forget the semi-final.
We’ve got a big, tough challenge smacking us in the face tomorrow and we need to go and perform at a level that is capable of us getting the right result.
“I think it would be very naive of the players to be thinking about Hampden. We’ve got a job to do at Ibrox first and foremost.
“It’s a fantastic game under the lights against a big rival with a chance to go into the last four, that’s mouth-watering for me and it should be for the players.”
The quarter-final replay coming up will be the sixth meeting of the sides this season but Gerrard insists this doesn’t change his preparation for the big game.
He continued: “We just prepare for a good Aberdeen team, a team that has been very effective on the road of late, and we do our normal preparation.
“We give the players a game plan and we show them Aberdeen’s strengths and weaknesses and then we go out and prepare and focus on ourselves to make sure we get the level of performance that we are looking for.”
Aberdeen had won seven away games on the bounce before their goalless draw with Celtic on Saturday yet their home results have been inconsistent.
Gerrard added: “I haven’t analysed their home and away form really, but they are an effective team and it suits them to sit in and be organised and have men behind the ball.
“They follow man-to-man in certain areas and they’ve got players in their team who are quick on the counter attack. So I don’t know, maybe their style is suited at the moment to play away from home.
“We’ll be aware of that but we won’t change in any way; we always focus the majority of our preparation on ourselves and try to improve us.
I don’t think the players need any extra drilling in terms of what Aberdeen are about. They should know by now, we’ve played them enough.”
Rangers will be without Gareth McAuley tomorrow night as the experienced defender continues to recover from a hamstring problem but Borna Barisic is available having had an illness. Aberdeen’s top scorer Sam Cosgrove, who has 18 goals for the season, is suspended.
On that, Gerrard said: “Well, he’s a good player and he’s scoring as well. He’s a player in form and he’s a big profile up there, so of course he’s a good player and I’m sure Aberdeen are disappointed he is missing.
“In terms of us we focus on our players and their availability. Aberdeen have got good players and they are quite strong in that forward area so I’m sure they have got a suitable replacement whatever Derek decides to do.
“But I’m not going to sit here and say how happy I am that a player is missing because that’s not the type of manager I am.
“I worry about my players and the availability for my team. We’re in a healthy position so I’m pretty pleased.”