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Steven Gerrard insists focus is paramount as Rangers bid to stop Celtic making history

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'We know and respect there's going to be a lot of noise on the outside': Rangers boss Steven Gerrard insists 'focus' is paramount as his side bid to stop Celtic winning an unprecedented 10th straight league titleRangers begin their Scottish Premiership campaign at Aberdeen on Saturday Steven Gerrard and Rangers are out to stop Celtic making history this seasonRangers' fierce rivals Celtic are bidding for their 10th consecutive league title

Steven Gerrard knows Rangers cannot escape Celtic's bid for ten in a row being the dominant narrative of a Premiership season about to reveal its opening chapter.

It is confronted as a fact of life. A reality of their timing as employees at Ibrox. While the other side of Glasgow bubbles with talk of history potentially in the making, Gerrard is charged with leading the resistance.

The 40-year-old Rangers manager understands the situation and all the pressure that it brings, yet will seek to prevent his players from becoming distracted by the fever that will surely grip the coming weeks and months.

Steven Gerrard's Rangers side begin their Scottish Premiership campaign at Aberdeen

Saturday's lunchtime assignment in Aberdeen is the first of 38 that must be negotiated in the Premiership title race. No one needs lessons on the magnitude of what lies at its end. For Gerrard, simply concentrating on each and every step must take precedence.

Asked if he had spoken to his squad about the significance of this league season, he said: 'I think the players are aware of it anyway.

'Everyone is aware of it — the board, the fans, the players. Of course, it comes up in conversations. I would be a liar if I said it didn't.

'But, for me, it's important to focus on the next challenge and that's Aberdeen. We know and respect there's going to be a lot of noise on the outside.

'On the inside, it is my job to keep them focused on the next challenge and not really add unnecessary pressure to the players.

'There's no getting away from it, we have to accept the situation at the time, where we all are and just give our best shot for this football club.

'We can't control the noise, we have to accept it. At Rangers, you don't have the chance to pick and choose what you want to prioritise and what you want to put all of your efforts into.

'Everyone knows for this club to stay in a healthy position we have to qualify for Europe and commit in Europe from a financial point of view. We have to go for everything that's available.

'Of course, if I could pick one of them, it would be the league. Of course it would, because the league is so important.

'But as a Rangers manager, we go for every game, face every challenge, try to win everything that's in front of us and do our best in every competition we enter.'

A trophy of some form is surely essential in Gerrard's third season. Last time around, the League Cup slipped from Rangers' grasp in a final they dominated yet still lost 1-0 to Celtic.

Celtic are on the hunt to win an unprecedented 10th successive Scottish Premiership title

Their slump in the Premiership caused far greater concern. A shift in the balance of power looked in the offing after a merited 2-1 victory at Parkhead on December 29, yet Rangers were 13 points adrift by the time Scottish football was forced into lockdown.

For Gerrard, those disappointments will be used to drive his push for a breakthrough in the new campaign.

'It has to,' he insisted. 'I think I was the same as a player, I always tried to move on quickly from success but also tried to get back after bumps on the road to fuel the desire to be more successful.

'That's what we need to do as a team. We did come very close (in the League Cup final). The performance was really good and I couldn't have asked for any more from the players in terms of what they gave.

'That goes for the two years. I think these players need some help through the door to try to help improve the 11 and the squad, and make us more consistent over a full season. That's what we're trying to do right now.'

Rangers' form collapse witnessed through February and March rekindled questions about the mentality of some of those currently under Gerrard's command. So does he think the squad will have learned lessons from last season?

'I hope they will have learned,' added the manager. 'From that kind of experience, all you can do is improve, learn and grow.

'When I got the job, people spoke about my inexperience but I've certainly gained experience over the course of the last two years.

Rangers were 13 points adrift of Celtic by the time last season was forced into lockdown

'I know the players are a good bunch and I know they want to strive to get better.'

Gerrard played down a report that winger Jordan Jones had been told he can leave Ibrox and said he had yet to decide whether new centre-back Leon Balogun — 'looking fit, strong and sharp' —would be involved at Pittodrie.

Jermain Defoe and Steven Davis are both still injured.

Those who are picked will enter an arena devoid of fans and its usual hostile welcome for Rangers players.

'Every time we have played Aberdeen, whether it be home or away, in the league or the cup, we've always had a fierce challenge,' said Gerrard, whose side have drawn their last two meetings with the Dons.

'I think Derek (McInnes) gets them really fired up and will have them well drilled.

'Not having our own fans there is a disadvantage because the support we've had up there has been phenomenal.

'But we're hoping to capitalise on a quiet Pittodrie because you know and I know it can become noisy. 

'They can get behind their team there, and we're hoping to take advantage of that.'


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