STEVEN GERRARD reckons Rangers’ Europa League group is of a “Champions League” standard – and his side must look to profit from their home matches if they are to get out of it.
The Light Blues welcome Dutch giants Feyenoord to Ibrox tonight, with this being the first time the two sides have met since the UEFA Cup last-16 tie of 2002, where Gers were unfortunate to be knocked-out by the eventual winners that term.
Gerrard is very much looking forward to this evening’s clash, and to coming up against Jaap Stam once again, with the Englishman having faced the Dutchman numerous times in his playing career.
Speaking at yesterday afternoon’s UEFA press conference at Ibrox Stadium, Gerrard explained: “When the group was made, it had a Champions League feel to it because of the level of opponents we are going to be facing, but you have always got to look to your home games if we have got any ambitions or dreams to try and get out of this group.
“That has got to be the target as we are not here to make the numbers up. We want to do everything we can to try and get out the group, but to do that, we have to try and take maximum points at home.
“That will be tough as Feyenoord are a good team, and I know Jaap Stam from his Reading days and how he tries to be very organised and play an attacking brand of football, so we will have to be at it tomorrow night if we have any ambitions to take maximum points.
“Feyenoord come with a big reputation and they are a massive club. They will bring a big support and they play an exciting brand of football, so they are certainly a team we need to show full respect to.
“They have match-winners in the team and I don’t think they will come and sit in and be negative, I think they will come and play and believe they can take maximum points.
“It is all set up to be a fantastic game and one we are looking forward to. Every opponent that comes to Ibrox, we always analyse where they are strong and do everything we can as a team and collectively to deal with their threats.
“They come with pace in the wide areas and they like to combine and play some nice stuff in the final third.
“So it is important we are compact and we defend really well. I would like to see how they deal with our strengths – it doesn’t matter who come into Ibrox, we always want to try and play an aggressive style on the front foot, and we want to play to the emotion in the crowd with the crowd being behind us and it being a full house.
“We’ll see where our performance level takes us. I believe if we get close to our best, I am confident we can get the result we want.”
Most notably, Gerrard faced Stam in the 2005 Champions League final while a Liverpool player, with Gerrard getting above the Dutchman to head his side back into the match shortly after half-time when they were trailing 3-0.
The manager added: “I was lucky enough to play against him and he was a top player and one of the best defenders in the world when he was at his peak. Fortunately enough for me, he switched off for one second in one game when I had one of the biggest moments of my career!
“But I have nothing but respect for him as a player. I admire the fact he has gone into management and he is testing himself and taking on all types of different challenges. He is at home now, if you like, at Feyenoord, and you can see when you watch his team his philosophy and his way of playing is very clear.”