Belief is the key, says Rangers boss Gerrard
European football is giving Rangers boss Steven Gerrard a welcome distraction from poor league form (pic: SNS Group)
Rangers may be nursing their worst league start for 29 years but at least they can take some comfort from a stirring Europa League campaign.
Having battled their way through the qualifiers to reach the group phase, Steven Gerrard’s side emerged with an unlikely point from their trip to Spain to take on Villareal in their opening fixture.
The Light Blues welcome Rapid Vienna to Ibrox in Group G tonight as they look to build on that draw.
However, they go into the match on the back of a shock defeat to Premiership newcomers Livingston, the 1-0 loss in West Lothian condemning them to their worst start in the league for nearly three decades with 10 points already dropped after seven games.
Rangers appear a different proposition in Europe, though, and Gerrard has urged his players to have more belief in themselves.
“You saw at the weekend, we didn’t show enough quality or belief in the final third and we couldn’t score, we didn’t look like scoring,” he said.
“It’s very evident to the players that when they go for it and believe in themselves, they are a better team. I’ve mentioned many times how I want it to look and what I expect of them. Now the players have got to go deliver on that
“It’s a great stage for the players, myself, the club and the fans and we want to make the most of it and the challenge when the draw was made was to get out the group.”
Celts must blunt Salzburg attack
Meanwhile, Celtic’s trip to Salzburg in Group B has been dominated by the furore surrounding the venues for the Scottish League Cup semi-finals.
Brendan Rodgers has expressed his disappointment at the process undertaken by the SPFL to switch Celtic’s meeting with Hearts to Murrayfield later this month.
However, he has more pressing matters to worry about for now, with the Parkhead boss wary of the attacking threat posed by their hosts in the Red Bull Arena.
Unbeaten at home in all competitions since November 2016, Salzburg top the Austrian Bundesliga with nine straight wins.
“They’re a team that are clearly high in confidence domestically and if they reached the semi-finals of the competition last year will feel that they were close to getting to a final,” said Rodgers.
“They’ve got real quality in their team. They win a lot of games and score goals so we know that defensively we have to be organised, but also really aggressive in the right moments.
Keeping it tight at the back has not been a strong suit for Celtic this season and with Tom Rogic, Kristoffer Ajer, Filip Benkovic and Nir Bitton all sidelined, that task will be all the more difficult.
“We know that we can score goals also,” added Rodgers. “We’ve got good speed in the team and got good players with the ability to keep the ball so that will be important to us.
“They score goals but we also know they concede goals as well. There’s going to be opportunities for us. At this level, it’s about being clinical.”