Steven Gerrard expects Rangers to be fearless against Celtic

Steven Gerrard expects his Rangers players to have more belief and less fear going to Celtic Park after ending a 12-game run without victory over their arch rivals in December.

Gerrard admitted his team sat off Celtic too much when they lost 1-0 at Parkhead in September.

But he felt there were mitigating factors given they had just returned from Russia, where they sealed a place in the Europa League group stages with a draw against Ufa.

And he is optimistic his players will be more positive after they beat Celtic 1-0 at Ibrox in December.

“The last time we visited Celtic Park it was on the back of a Europa League game on the Thursday night,” he said.

“We had a lot of travel, it was a big night emotionally for us to qualify with nine men, and then the Old Firm slapped us in the face within 72 hours, and it was a very difficult place. And I think that affected us from the beginning.

“We also had to deal with the mental block of fearing Celtic over the years and the results that have been quite damaging.

“I think beating them at Ibrox and showing that we can, at our best, compete and go toe to toe, that should help us this time round. That doesn’t mean we are going to go there and necessarily get the result. We have to go and work for that and make sure across the park we are up for it and match them in the one v ones.

“But the players have to believe and have less fear this time going there.”

Rangers moved level with the Ladbrokes Premiership champions when they beat them in the final game before the winter break, but they trail by 10 points ahead of their latest meeting.

“I think they’ll be better,” Gerrard said. “We expect a strong Celtic team. We obviously respect their home form, we know they have individual players that can win a game at any given time, and they have a manager that will motivate them very well.

“We expect a tough challenge and a good Celtic team but our focus this week has been about us and what we can do. We felt last time we were there we maybe showed too much respect. We stood off them too much, certainly in the first 45 minutes. We will have a game plan that is hopefully a level up from the last time we went there.

“We’d like to be the first team domestically to go there and take three points. That will be a motivation for myself and the players. I think our best performance can achieve that.

“I think we have to take confidence from the last time that both teams went head to head. Obviously it’s a different environment, we won’t have the power of Ibrox behind us, we won’t have them cheering every duel or match-up across the pitch, that was certainly a big help for us. But the players have got to have the mentality and confidence that they can go there and do the same job.

“We have to realise and appreciate it’s a different game, a different environment. But one thing is quite clear in any game of football, if you stand off good players, normally they can hurt you. No matter what the environment, what pitch, what place, if you give good players too much respect, they hurt you.”