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Steven Gerrard knows Rangers need to defend better against Willem II

Hibernian v Rangers – Scottish Premiership – Easter Road
(Image credit: Andrew Milligan)

Steven Gerrard has warned Rangers that a repeat of their poor defending against Hibernian could lead to trouble in Tilburg.

Rangers kicked off the new Premiership campaign with a British record seven straight clean sheets.

But that shut-out streak was blown apart at Easter Road as the Light Blues spilled two points in a 2-2 draw with Hibs.

Full-backs James Tavernier and Borna Barisic have both come under fire from fans for their failure to do more in the build up to goals scored by Drey Wright and Christian Doidge.

Gerrard’s team must now pick themselves up again as they travel to Holland to take on Willem II in their latest Europa League qualifier and the Rangers boss has told his team they cannot switch off like they did in Edinburgh.

Gerrard – whose side stand 180 minutes away from qualifying for the group stage for the third year running – said: “It’s very difficult to predict how a game might pan out but one thing is for sure at this level – if you’re passive and stand off good players, even more than domestically, you’ll get hurt at this level for sure. 

“A big part of our performance and success throughout these qualifiers in the last couple of years and our journeys in Europe have really stemmed from a solid base defensively, our organisation and what we’ve given out of possession. 

“But that’s just one side of the game – you’ve still got to have the players and the talent in your team to go and hurt the opposition when the ball is turned over. 

“To get a successful result both sides of our game will have to be good, but certainly from an out of possession point of view we have to do much better than the weekend.

“We’ve got to use the experience and tap into the knowledge of the two journeys we’ve had in Europe over the last couple of seasons. 

“The players know what’s needed and what it takes to get a result away in Europe.”

Rangers have yet to lose a single qualifying leg since Gerrard took over in the summer of 2018.

But the margin for error is tighter than ever this time around, with the Covid-19 crisis reducing the preliminary clashes to one-off affairs.

“It is different,” admitted Gerrard. “It is a unique situation. It does take away a slight advantage for us if the game was over two legs and we had the opportunity to take the game back to our home ground.

“But one thing for sure, to get through this new process under the Covid restrictions then it’s going to be a harder and tougher challenge than the previous last two years.”

Willem II lost both their Dutch Eredivisie clashes last season against a Feyenoord team who Rangers acquitted themselves well against, picking up four points from their two group-stage clashes.

But Gerrard is taking little encouragement from those defeats, saying: “I wouldn’t expect Willem II to have an opinion of us because we lost to Hamilton, so you don’t really look into the results too much.

“But I have watched one of the games that they played against Feyenoord. It was their last game before lockdown and was an interesting watch.

“We also watched all the games that they’ve played this season – two in the league and one against Progres in the previous qualifier – so we’ve got a really good idea about this team, their strengths, their weaknesses.

“They carry a big threat in the front four players. They normally play a 4-3-2-1 formation but they made some really interesting changes at the weekend at half-time. They weren’t getting much joy and changed people who have been playing in positions consistently but went a bit different.

“So I’m really looking forward to seeing what side they will play because that will give me a big indication in terms of personnel and how it will look for Willem II.”